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Blokker plans to take over debt-stricken Hema

© Belga

The company that owns the Blokker chain of retail stores, Mirage Retail Group, has plans to take over the struggling Hema chain, based mainly in the Netherlands but with branches in Brussels and Flanders.

Mirage aims to reach an agreement as soon as possible with Hema’s creditors, chief executive Michiel Witteveen told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.

We made an offer to creditors last Thursday,” he said. “We want to reach an agreement to reduce the mountain of debt. It is the intention that everyone makes a contribution, and then we are also willing to contribute to make Hema a healthy company again.”

Hema is currently carrying €880 million in debt, and sources told the paper Witteveen intends to bring that down to €400-€500 million. Blokker’s bid is currently being held by investment bank Moelis & Company in Amsterdam, representing the creditors.

The news comes as Hema is facing a major deadline; on Monday the repayment of a €54 million loan falls due. If the current owner, billionaire businessman Marcel Boekhoorn, fails to meet that deadline, he must hand the keys of the chain over to Moelis and the creditors.

Boekhoorn is reported to have made the creditors an offer to allow him to carry out a thorough house-cleaning in the chain to reduce the debt burden. But the creditors – mainly hedge funds who bought up their shares when they were going cheap – had little interest in the proposal.

The appearance of Witteveen as a sort of white knight now offers them another perspective.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times