Apr 2, 2018
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Bon-Ton Stores says in active discussions with bidder

Apr 2, 2018

Bankrupt regional department store chain Bon-Ton Stores Inc is in active discussions with a bidder to acquire the company, and had received approval from lenders to extend the deadline for submitting bids for the chain, it said on Friday.

Bon-Ton Stores

The company said it had received approval to extend the deadline for submitting qualified bids by two days to April 4.

The store chain filed for bankruptcy protection to restructure its debt and explore a potential sale last month, and plans to hold an auction for sale of the company on April 9.

Sales at many U.S. retail chains have tumbled in recent years as more Americans shop online and as consumers increasingly cut spending on apparel in favor of eating out and other experiences.

Bon-Ton and its official committee of unsecured creditors have been trying to round up a going concern bid backed by vendors and landlords, two sources with knowledge of the talks told Reuters earlier this month.

A similar approach was used to prevent a liquidation of Aeropostale Inc. The mall-based retailer was acquired by a consortium that included landlords Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties, whose properties contain a combined 200 Aeropostale stores and sought to retain a key tenant.

Bon-Ton, however, has lots of landlords and many that own a single location, Kathryn Bufano, the company’s former chief executive officer, told Reuters in mid-March. As a result, no single landlord is heavily dependent on Bon-Ton, diminishing the appeal of an Aeropostale-type bid.

“The vendor community and Bon-Ton’s bankers are working to see if the company can be salvaged,” she said.

Six hedge funds that hold Bon-Ton’s second-lien notes told the company they want to team up with liquidator Great American Group and wind down the business, their attorney Sidney Levinson of Jones Day told the court on Monday.

Levinson argued that a liquidation was the best way to squeeze the most value out of the company, which also operates Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers stores.

Walrath reminded Levinson’s group, which includes affiliates of Brigade Capital Management and Contrarian Capital, that Bon-Ton may consider the impact on landlords and employees when valuing bids.

“No court has said ‘highest and best’ is solely dollars,” she said.

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