Debenhams, with stores in Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, goes into administration

Future of Kent stores remains unclear

Debenhams Plc was placed under the control of administrators from UK firm FTI on Tuesday, after the retail chain rejected a financing offer from shareholder, Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct and Premier League football club Newcastle United.

Various business pundits are predicting Debenhams will enter a pre-pack administration later this morning, effectively giving control of the entity to the hedge fund lenders who control its debt.

Its lenders are made up of High Street banks and USA hedge funds, including Barclays and Bank of Ireland, as well as Silver Point and GoldenTree.

FILE PHOTO: Mike Ashley, founder and majority shareholder of sportswear retailer Sports Direct, leads journalists on a factory tour after the company's AGM, at the company's headquarters in Shirebrook, Britain, September 7, 2016.

The Ipswich Debenhams is the largest store in the town centre, and many see it as vital for the regeneration of the area - and the company signed a 125-year-lease on the building only six years ago.

By October last year, the company had earmarked 50 shops for closure, but said it would be "underperforming stores over three to five years old" that would be most likely to be axed.

However, this Transaction will allow Debenhams to continue trading as normal; access the funding we need; and proceed with executing our turnaround plans, whilst deleveraging the Group's balance sheet.

Preston Business Improvement District said a year ago that losing the "anchor store" in the Fishergate Centre would be a major blow.

Shops will continue trading for the time being but Debenhams had already proposed closing some 50 branches.

In a statement issued to the market on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Ashley said the administration should be reversed and Sports Direct given access to information to "save the business for all stakeholders".

'In the meantime, our customers, colleagues, pension holders, suppliers and landlords can be reassured that Debenhams will now be able to move forward on a stable footing.

Ashley had offered a rescue plan, but with the condition he was appointed chief executive.

Sports Direct said that, following the administration, it did not intend to make an offer for the company.

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