Hilco answers distress call from Welsh pleasure park

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A distressed-debt specialist known for snapping up ailing companies in the retail sector has branched out to acquire a major stake in the Barry Island pleasure park in Wales.

Hilco has bought a 50 per cent shareholding in Hyper Value, a struggling discount retailer based in Merthyr Tydfil. The chain has 28 stores and employs 400 people.

But it also owns a clutch of other assets, including a nightclub, a bar called the Dolphin, a plant hire business and the Barry Island amusement park. The region - it stopped being an island over a century ago - is a popular leisure destination and until recently was home to a Butlins holiday camp.

The pleasure park has more than 50 rides and is open throughout the summer.

It is not thought that Hilco, however, is planning to sell the park. "We are probably going to keep the leisure side of the business going," said one insider. "It's the heart of Barry Island."

Hilco has acquired all the new assets in a deal worth just £9m. Its UK chief executive, Paul McGowan, said: "We have agreed to provide additional working capital to the company if it can secure agreement with its existing creditors.

"I expect that a formal offer will be made to all creditors in the next two or three days. The long-term future of the business is really in the hands of its creditors and we hope that they will support the offer being made to them."

Ian Rogers, the son of the founder Ken Rogers, who died six years ago, has retained the other 50 per cent in Hyper Value.

Hilco has carved a niche for itself in the retail sector. It took over Lehman Brothers' £100m debt in the struggling department store chain Allders just over a year ago.

Other deals have included helping to sell off 120 Littlewoods stores and acquiring ailing surf-wear chain Extreme.