An AngloCanadian bidder who was interested in buying the collapsed Wilko retailer has questioned whether the administrators PwC’s process was fair and transparent, as the pressure to settle the future of the discount chain grows.
M2 Capital, who says it made an offer for “more than 100mn dollars” on the entire group just before midnight on the Friday, complained to Bob Moritz, the chairman of PwC on Tuesday about the bidding.
Robert Mantse (chair of M2 who previously worked for PwC) claimed in an email that the private equity firm was required to submit its final offer and proofs of financing during a UK public holiday on Monday without having access to the secure data room in order to review Wilko’s financials.
Sources close to the process questioned, however, the seriousness and availability of funds to purchase Wilko as a whole after M2 failed to provide any further information in response to questions from administrators on Monday.
Mantse didn’t respond to the question about M2 being able to fund the bid.
M2 criticised Wilko after it collapsed into Administration in this month, putting the future of 400 stores and 12,500 jobs at risk.
The GMB, which represents Wilko’s thousands of workers, sent a letter to the Business Secretary on Monday, requesting an urgent meeting in order to discuss administration. The letter claimed that bidders reported “difficulties in engaging with PwC’s insolvency specialists”.
Andy Prendergast said that the GMB national secretary believes that there should be no redundancies if offers are made that protect jobs.
Mantse and Prendergast spoke last week as M2 prepared a bid for Wilko, according to a letter.
Two people familiar with the bid said that Doug Putman of HMV Canada, owner of Wilko, and other UK discount chains were also interested in purchasing a large portion of Wilko’s estate. Putman declined comment.
PwC’s response to M2’s open letter was: “We reject wholeheartedly the assertions and characterisations contained in this open note.” We run a fair, transparent and honest sales process and are focused on our responsibility to ensure the best possible outcome for all creditors while preserving as many job opportunities as we can.
They said: “We are actively engaging all interested parties. We are assessing the deliveryability of all bids and requesting any necessary information.” At this stage of the process, it would be inappropriate to make any comments about individual bidders.
GMB said it was important to save jobs, even if that meant giving a bad deal to creditors like Hilco (the restructuring specialist who lent £40mn to the chain before its collapse).
The union expressed concern over the influence of Hilco which, separately, advises PwC about the possibility of liquidating some assets including stock if there is no bidder.
Sources close to Hilco claim that the lender did not have any say in PwC’s decision-making and the final outcome for Wilko. The company, who became a Wilko lender before PwC appointed the administrator, usually advises on high profile retail administrations in order to ensure maximum returns for creditors. Hilco declined comment.
A spokesperson for the government said that it would “continue standing firmly behind” UK employees but did not confirm whether a union meeting would be held. “While this is commercial decision. . . We understand that this is a difficult time for the workers at Wilko,” said the group.