Collapsed electricals firm Comet will close its remaining stores today as administrator Deloitte revealed that its unsecured creditors are owed £232.9m and Business Secretary Vince Cable launches an investigation.
Sources at the Department for Business told The Sun that the circumstances of the purchase of Comet by Henry Jackson’s OpCapita firm in February were being investigated.
Redundancy costs of Comet’s 7,000 staff will set the government back more than £23m while HMRC will also miss out on £26.2m due to the collapse.
Meanwhile, Hailey Acquisitions, the investment vehicle put together by OpCapita, which acquired Comet for £2 in February from former owner Kesa (now known as Darty), is expected to receive just under £50m due to its position as a secured creditor. The administrators report also revealed that Hailey Acquistions received £11.5m in interest and arrangement payments while OpCapita and another Hailey vehicle collected £1.3m for “quarterly monitoring fees”.
OpCapita, run by former investment banker Henry Jackson, also received a £50m dowry when it acquired the chain.
Comet, which had 235 stores, plunged into administration last month. It recorded losses of £95m in the year to April, according to Deloitte, and made an additional £31m loss in the five months to the end of September.
Deloitte said 118 parties initially expressed an interest in buying the whole or parts of the business when it fell into administration. However, four concrete offers received fell short of expectations or faltered during due diligence.
The administrator said it is still speaking to a “small number of parties”, thought to include entrepreneur Clive Coombes and online retailer Appliances Direct owner DRL, which is understood to be the frontrunner to acquire the brand name.
A Department for Busines spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that the Insolvency Service has launched a fact finding inquiry under section 447 of the Companies Act into Comet Group Ltd. The purpose of the inquiry is to investigate the circumstances surrounding its insolvency and to establish whether further action is required.
“We are not in a position to comment further at this stage. To do so could prejudice the outcome of the investigation and any future action.”
The possible outcomes include a referral to the Serious Fraud Office, winding up a company or declaring that nothing illegal has been done.
All Comet stores to close today as losses hit £230m and Vince Cable steps in
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Last remaining Comet stores to close today as administrator reveals creditors owed £232.9m and Vince Cable steps in