Two Brussels investment companies have made a “binding and unqualified bid” for what remains of the bakery and catering chain Le Pain Quotidien.
The chain’s main shareholder, together with recently-launched investment group M80, are bidding for all of the shares in the stripped-down Pain Quotidien operation, after it has hived off its British and American subsidiaries.
Le Pain Quotidien has been in financial difficulties for some time, a result of its positioning as a high-end bakery and open-table restaurant occupying prime locations starting with its first-ever branch in Rue Antoine Dansaert in Brussels city centre.
When the coronavirus struck, it was the death blow for the chain. First its British and American wings had to seek protection from their creditors. Then things got so bad Cobepa had to step in last week.
The company took on Le Pain Quotidien’s debt, worth an estimated €80 million. Then it cut the two overseas subsidiaries loose. Finally, it applied for a judicial reorganisation under Belgian corporate law, which would offer protection from creditors while the affairs of the new slimmed-down business, informally known as Le Pain Quotidien B, were put in order.
The American operation was taken over by Aurify Brands, which owns Five Guys, Melt Shop and Fields Good Chicken. The British operation, unable to find a buyer, has gone into administration.
The holding company that is left will be renamed Brunchco21, and consist of Le Pain Quotidien Belgium and France, the production facility Atelier du Pain, the brand rights and the existing contracts with the American and British operations.
The plan now has to be approved by a court, at which point M80 will take a majority share, and Cobepa a ‘substantial’ minority holding. The two companies have said they are prepared to spend several million euros on relaunching the chain.