RBS's 'outrageous' pull-out from Peacocks talks puts rescue at risk

 

Taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland stands accused of a decision to scale back its lending exposure to troubled high street operators, potentially killing retailers and risking major job losses.

Sources close to rescue talks over the discount clothes chain Peacocks said the bank suddenly went cold on plans to refinance the company after months of positive negotiations. The bank's decision could push the chain into collapse, and administrators at KPMG are waiting in the wings.

According to those close to the negotiations, RBS bankers announced the change of course at a meeting just over a week ago. Peacocks' other bank, Barclays, has remained, and continues to be supportive and prepared to keep lending.

"It was unbelievable. They just suddenly said they were taking a different view of retail businesses and could no longer support the process," said one source at the meeting. "Management were furious. This is a decent company, with growing sales but way too much debt." Another said: "Their behaviour has been outrageous. Now we're looking at a potential threat to some 13,000 jobs. Is this the way a taxpayer-owned bank should operate?"

RBS and Barclays had been negotiating with shareholders on forms of debt-for-equity swap, a technique whereby the lenders accept shares in return for taking a loss on their loans.

Peacocks, chaired by the former Asda and Royal Mail boss Allan Leighton, has been struggling to service its £240m of debt. Last year its underlying profits before those interest payments was £70m. Its like-for-like sales rose 2 per cent over the Christmas period, albeit with a fall in profit margins.

However, attempts to find new investors have repeatedly failed.

RBS denied there had been a change in its lending policies towards the retail sector as a whole, highlighting that it has remained supportive to another troubled chain, HMV. "Each company restructure is judged on its own merits," it said. But it added: "Clearly the difficult conditions retailers face is an important factor."

Barratts saved but 2,300 jobs go

Administrators to the collapsed Barratts shoe shop chain have sealed a deal that will mean a total of 2,290 staff have lost their jobs. Michael Ziff, a former chief executive, is buying 89 shops, safeguarding 1,184 staff. But 39 stores will close. In December, the administrator, Deloitte, axed 1,610 employees after no bidders came forward for its concessions business. Yesterday's deal will see a further 680 redundancies. Deloitte's Daniel Butters said that given the state of the high street he was "delighted" to have found a buyer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before