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House of Fraser clock is ticking

The Chinese-owned department store group set out the race against time in a statement to the Luxembourg stock exchange, where its bonds are listed.

It said: “Discussions continue with interested investors and its main secured creditors, which are focused on concluding as quickly as possible to enable receipt of an investment by no later than 20 August.”

It had already earmarked 31 of its 59 stores for closure through a company voluntary agreement, which would also reduce rents on 10 of its remaining stores.

But its survival hopes were dealt a blow last week when C.banner, the Hong Kong-listed owner of Hamleys, dropped plans for a fundraising that would have allowed it to buy a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser’s parent group for £70million and invest a similar amount in the business.

Interest has come from Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley, who already holds an 11 per cent stake in House of Fraser, Edinburgh Woollen Mill owner Philip Day and turnaround fund Alteri Investors.

The would-be rescuers were told to submit their “best and final offers” yesterday to PwC, which is advising House of Fraser’s lenders and bondholders.

All parties declined to comment. Its main lenders are HSBC and China’s ICBC bank, with the former believed to be taking the lead in deciding the best options.

House of Fraser employs about 6,000 people directly and 11,500 concession staff. It is understood that House of Fraser is up to date with payments to suppliers, but may need to find about £15million ahead of monthly rent bills due before the end of August.

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