Investors express interest in homeware chain B&Q

The High Court has said it is 'good news' that 5 investors have expressed interest in struggling homeware chain B&Q Ireland Ltd.

Declan McDonald of Pricewaterhouse Coopers has been appointed as examiner to the insolvent business which employs 690 staff across Ireland.

There was no opposition to the company's petition for court protection from its creditors.

Mr. McDonald was first appointed as interim examiner on January 31st .

The DIY chain has 9 large stores in Ireland in Waterford, Athlone,Cork, Galway, Liffey Valley, Limerick, Naas, Swords and Tallaght.

The Waterford and Athlone stores are to close as part of a restructuring programme to save the business.

92 staff work at these stores with 69 of them employed on a part-time basis.

The court noted that even if rents at the two outlets were reduced to zero, they would not be able to return to profitability.

The other 7 stores will remain open if rents can be successfully renegotiated.

€17.3 million owed to parent company

B&Q Ireland Ltd is paying €11.6 million in rent for the stores and believes this is about €5.8 million above the going rate.

The DIY chain's biggest debt is the more than €17.3 million it owes to parent company Kingfisher plc, which is based in the UK.

Mr. Justice Peter Kelly said aspects of B&Q's situation were depressingly familiar: it is a company 'bedevilled' by a 32.4% drop in revenue in the last 5 years and 'blighted by extraordinary rent obligations'.

In other ways he found its situation 'refreshingly different' from the vast majority of firms looking for examinership; B&Q has no bank debt and nor does it owe arrears to the Revenue Commissioners.

It was good news that the interim examiner's report found there has been interest from investors, he said.