Shopping centre giant Intu on the verge of bankruptcy

The owner of some of the UK's biggest shopping centres, Intu, has warned that it is likely to call in administrators.

The company is the UK's biggest shopping centre group, with 17 centres in the UK and three in Spain.

The firm, which owns the Trafford Centre, the Lakeside complex, and Braehead, said it had not reached an agreement in financial restructuring talks with its lenders.

The Trafford Centre fully reopened to shoppers on June 15, as non-essential shops began to open up for the first time since lockdown started.

However, some things in the shopping centre have changed to ensure staff and shopper safety, with one of those rules limiting the number of people inside at any one time.

Intu's centres are expected to stay open if it falls into administration, at least in the short term.

Intu had been struggling even before the coronavirus outbreak, and about 132,000 jobs in the company and in its wider supply chain will be in question should the firm fall into administration.

On Tuesday, Intu had warned that if talks with creditors broke down it was headed into administration and that it had appointed the accountancy firm KPMG to handle the process.

In a statement on Friday, the company said: “Since that update, discussions have continued with the Intu Group’s creditors in relation to the terms of standstill-based agreements. Unfortunately, insufficient alignment and agreement has been achieved on such terms.

“The board is therefore considering the position of Intu with a view to protecting the interests of its stakeholders. This is likely to involve the appointment of administrators.” It promised a further announcement would be made “as soon as possible”.

While the coronavirus crisis forced the closure of all non-essential shops, retailers had already been under pressure from a host of factors including changes in shopping habits as people move online.

Big shopping centre landlords such as Intu rely on big retailers for their revenues - but in recent years retailers have been asking landlords for rent reductions due to the pressures they are under, Ms Hardcastle said.

Intu's centres were partially shut during the coronavirus lockdown, with only essential shops remaining open. The company had about 60% of shopping centre staff and about 20% of head office employees on furlough.

Any sale process will be complicated by the complex structure of the group and, if a buyer for the whole company is not forthcoming, its assets could end up being sold off separately.

Intu Properties plc, formerly Capital Shopping Centres Group plc, was established by Sir Donald Gordon in 1980 under the name Transatlantic Insurance Holdings plc as an offshoot Liberty Life Association of Africa, a business he had founded in 1957.

In January 2013, CSC announced its rebranding as Intu and the renaming of twelve of its shopping centres to incorporate the new consumer-facing brand.

In March 2020, Intu abandoned a £1.3 billion emergency cash call as not enough investors were willing to support the call. The company had £4.5 billion of debt. The company subsequently warned it could collapse if unable to raise further funds, after reporting a loss of £2bn for 2019