BHS pension hole 'may swallow the firm'

Simon Jack
Business editor

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BHS is expected to persuade its landlords to take a hit today in return for limping on and paying reduced rent - but rent nonetheless.

Those that don't fancy it can have their stores back to rent to someone else - so why wouldn't they vote yes.

But even if that happens, BHS does not ride successfully off into the sunset.

It needs to raise £100m in working capital, jobs will go when the 40 stores making the heaviest losses close after Christmas, and - most importantly - there is the small matter of a £571m pension deficit.

Pension power

Whatever happens today, this scheme will end up in the pensions lifeboat scheme and will be one of the biggest schemes it has rescued.

This means that 20,000 pension scheme members may lose some of their pension entitlements.

The Pension Protection Fund is entitled to vote today but, I have learned, will NOT.

Because it is by far the biggest creditor, its vote would make the other creditors' votes irrelevant and so it is allowing the company and the landlords to sort out their issues first.

However, it has secured the right to call in its debt in six months' time if it's not happy with the way the pension liabilities are dealt with.

That would bankrupt the company and is essentially a sword of Damocles hanging over the company.

That will focus minds at the company and at the pension regulator, which is in negotiations with former owner Sir Philip Green's Arcadia over making a contribution towards filling the hole.

BHS may win the day today but the pension question will have to be answered if the company is to survive.

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