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HMV seeks protection from insolvency

Online competish floors U.K. retail chain

LONDON

British music and entertainment retail chain HMV has sought insolvency protection by going into administration, the U.K. version of Chapter 11.

Following a board meeting Monday, the company, founded in 1921, announced that accountancy firm Deloitte would be appointed administrators.

The decision followed failed requests to HMV’s suppliers for £300 million ($481.8 million) in additional financing. The retailer owes $282.8 million to banks having struggled from the ever increasing competition from online sales.

The company has ceased trading on the London Stock Exchange, but Deloitte intends to keep HMV’s more than 230 stores in U.K. and Ireland open while it assesses business prospects and seeks potential buyers. More than 4,350 jobs are at risk.

U.K.-based private equity company Endless has already approached Deloitte with a view to purchasing HMV.

“The board regrets to announce that it has been unable to reach a position where it feels able to continue to trade outside of insolvency protection,” the HMV Group said in a statement.

All eyes have been on the struggling retail giant since it began a series of ultimately doomed efforts to turn around its business in 2007. As debts grew, the group sold off sections of its business in 2012, including its live entertainment arm, such as flagship venue Hammersmith Apollo, and book retailer Waterstones, which it had acquired in 1998.

The demise was signalled on Dec. 13 when the company announced it faced a possible breach of bank loan agreements. The same day HMV revealed its interim financial results for the 26 weeks ending Oct. 27, showing sales down 13.5% to $463.5 million, a total group loss after tax and exceptional items of $58 million and an underlying net debt of $282.8 million.

The failure follows in the footsteps of other entertainment retailers around the world including Tower Records and Virgin France, which filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 9.

Maureen Hinton, analyst from Verdict Research, told the BBC HMV was slow off the mark when it came to digital sales. “If it had gone online 10, 15 years ago, it’s got a very strong brand name, it could have built up a real presence. But at the moment if we think online you just think Amazon.”

According to Verdict, HMV’s share of the combined music and video market in the U.K., both physical and download, stood at 22.2% in 2012.

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