The Belgian Veritas chain has found a new owner: Antwerp investment company CIM Capital. This move allows the retail chain to make a fresh start. In operational terms, nothing is to change for the time being.
Exit of all shareholders
The new owners are the investment company behind Mark Van Hool, of the bus manufacturer of the same name. Together with two co-investors, who have not been named, CIM Capital is taking over all the shares. This means that both investor Indufin and the remaining family shareholders are leaving the former family business. According to Belgian newspaper De Tijd, another French and an Anglo-Saxon takeover candidate were still contenders, but the retailer will now remain in Belgian hands.
The acquisition is linked to debt rescheduling by Veritas: the chain came to an agreement with the creditors, even though the debt rescheduling results in a major loss for the banks Belfius, ING and KBC and for investor Mezzanine Partners. In order to reach an agreement, the retailer has initiated a judicial reorganisation procedure before the company court. Officially, the chain is making a fresh start: over the coming period, the company will be able to reorganise under judicial protection and shake off a proportion of its high debt burden.
Starting over “with workable debt”
For holding company Verifin, the debt rose to almost 61 million euros last year and after disappointing annual figures, there was also an additional depreciation of more than 20 million euros. Net losses were 26.4 million euros, despite a stable turnover.
According to the press release, the debt rescheduling was therefore a prerequisite for the takeover. However, when it comes to the approximately 750 employees and 121 stores, the reorganisation procedure will have “no direct impact”, the management has promised. CIM Capital says it will also bring in new financial resources itself. “During the judicial reorganisation process, the Veritas group will comply with all its obligations. This procedure also offers the best guarantee of a fresh start with workable debt and injection of new capital”, the chain explained.