Mar 25, 2019
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Pensions deficit could be Arcadia CVA stumbling block

Mar 25, 2019

As work continues on Arcadia’s turnaround strategy, reports suggest that the fashion retail giant's pension schemes could be a stumbling block. There have been suggestions that Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green is mulling a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) in order to reduce the rent burden of hundreds of under-performing stores that the operation currently runs. 

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The company's chain include Topshop/Topman, Miss Selfridge, Burton, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Evans and their rents are reportedly around 30% higher than the company thinks is a fair price in current conditions.

But given that a CVA would need the support of both the UK’s pensions regulator and the trustees of the firm’s pension schemes, the group’s pensions black hole would be a major issue.

The company may have to increase its pension fund contributions ahead of any CVA to secure the support it needs, with its deficit estimated to be around £1 billion in 2016. There have been no updated estimates since then but the Telegraph said that in 2017, Arcadia agreed to double the deficit recovery contributions to £50 million a year for 10 years. The problem is that any extra payments into the schemes beyond that annual £50 million already pledged would add even more pressure to Arcadia’s bottom line.

The newspaper reported that the group last week appointed property advisers from consultancy GCW to work with its longer-term adviser Deloitte on its restructuring strategy.

Arcadia, which has over 570 stores and almost 400 concessions, earlier this month denied that its store closure plans would see “significant” numbers being shut and large-scale job losses. It added that the company is operating as usual and all suppliers are being paid.

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