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Debenhams, with stores in Ashford, Westwood Cross, Chatham, Folkestone and Gravesend teeters on brink

By Chris Britcher

Shares in major high street retailer Debenhams were suspended this morning amid mounting expectation it is to enter administration.

In a twist to a dramatic day yesterday, when the retailer's board rejected a £150m cash injection from Sports Direct - a move which would have seen Mike Ashley installed as Debenhams' new chief executive officer - another bid was presented at around 2am this morning.

Sports Direct upped its proposals by offering to underwrite a £200m pre-emptive equity issuance to existing shareholders. It too was rejected.

Future of Kent stores remains unclear
Future of Kent stores remains unclear

A statement from Debenhams said: "The company's lenders have confirmed to the company that the proposal, on the terms set out, was not sufficient to justify an extension to the April 8 deadline."

The firm currently has outlets in Ashford, Gravesend, Folkestone, Canterbury, Westwood Cross and Chatham.

As it stands, Debenhams looks likely to go into what is known as pre-pack administration.

Latest improved bid from Sports Direct was rejected in the early hours of Tuesday
Latest improved bid from Sports Direct was rejected in the early hours of Tuesday

This will mean the firm's future will lie in the hands of its creditors, while all stock value held by existing shareholders will be wiped out. They include Mr Ashley who owns a 29% stake in the firm, believed to have cost him some £150m.

In a statement, Debenhams said: "This outcome would ensure the stability and continuing trading of the group's operating subsidiaries, with no disruption to the group's business, customers, employees, pension holders, suppliers or operations. This outcome would result in no equity value for the company's current shareholders."

If it takes that route, it will then likely implement a store closure programme as outlined earlier this year.

Retailer is likely to enter what is known as pre-pack administration this week
Retailer is likely to enter what is known as pre-pack administration this week

No details have been revealed as to which stores would be at risk, although at least 50 are expected to close, with negotiations opened with landlords over existing rent terms.

Debenhams says it anticipates making a further announcement during the course of the day "following further discussions with its lenders".

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