Warning of landlord kickback as CVA use soars among chains

The high street has seen a series of high profile chains use CVAs in recent months. Picture: ANTONY

The high street has seen a series of high profile chains use CVAs in recent months. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The number of struggling companies restructuring through a company voluntary arrangement has nearly doubled since Christmas – a rise described as 'seismic' by East Anglian experts.

The deals – intended to help creditors recover cash by writing off some debt or reducing rent costs to keep businesses running – have hit landlords hard, with hundreds of sites set to be vacated across the UK.

High-street chains have been among the high-profile casualties since the turn of the year, with New Look, Prezzo and Byron among those to cut stores and slash rent bills. And new figures show their growing use, with 102 CVAs in England and Wales in the first quarter of 2018, nearly 86% higher than the previous quarter and 18.6% higher than the same period a year before.

Adrian Fennell, a partner at Roche Chartered Surveyors, which works across East Anglia, said while CVAs kept the rent coming in for landlords, they gave no long-term security.

He said: 'We have gone through a fairly seismic period of CVAs and I think there has been an element of trying to hide your own bad news behind everybody else's bad news. The number of CVAs in such a short time has been unprecedented.'

Mr Fennell added landlords often offered rent free periods to entice companies and were now finding themselves missing out twice.

And he warned there could be a kickback from landlords who, faced with accepting lower rents or finding new tenants, may be tempted to take a stand by voting down plans, which must be backed by 75% of creditors.

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Mark Upton, chairman of the Eastern region branch of trade body R3, said the CVA was a vital tool for helping businesses pay their creditors back, but it was the least frequently used one.

He said: 'We use a CVA where a company is burdened by debt but is otherwise a good business going forward which will make a surplus of profit which can be used to pay off those debts.'

However, Mr Upton, a partner at East Anglian accountancy firm Ensors, said for a CVA to be used there had to be a chance of a better outcome. 'There must be some refinance, a change in strategy or in management,' he said. 'You can't keep doing what you have been doing to get yourself into trouble.'