End of the road in sight for BHS sale

Tracey Boles
Over 10,000 BHS jobs are at risk (Source: Getty)

The futures of BHS and thousands of its staff are hanging in the balance as administrators and the only known remaining bidder struggle to agree terms.

BHS administrator Duff & Phelps held further discussions with a buyer backed by Richess Group yesterday, with some executives hopeful that a deal could be announced to salvage BHS today.

According to Sky News, sources close to the situation suggested that the prospects of a deal remained "in the balance", with proof of Richess' funding still to materialise.

Read more: Advisers on BHS sale asked to reveal their fees

They also cautioned that many jobs could still be at risk even if an agreement to sell the company could be reached.

People close to BHS have suggested that if a deal cannot be struck to acquire BHS out of administration by the end of the week, the business is likely to be handed to liquidators, a move that would threaten more than 10,000 jobs.

Richess' directors include Greg Tufnell, a former Mothercare executive and brother of the former England cricketer Phil.

Its bid for BHS is understood to be backed by a wealthy Portuguese family, the identity of which remains shrouded in mystery.

"The Portuguese are the only game in town," one insider said.

Read more: BHS: The six answers we have so far

The prospective new owner is understood to have contacted the Pensions Regulator to seek assurances that it will not be required to take on the substantial liabilities associated with BHS's two staff pension schemes.

Eleven thousand BHS staff have been anxiously awaiting news of the chain's future since it was plunged into administration in April, little more than a year after it was sold by the billionaire Sir Philip Green to a little-known consortium called Retail Acquisitions. The latter was headed by former bankrupt Dominic Chappell.

The controversy surrounding the retailer's sale and subsequent collapse has triggered two parliamentary enquiries.

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF), BHS's biggest unsecured creditor, has held talks with Duff & Phelps about the appointment of a liquidator, which would be responsible for overseeing the piecemeal sale and closure of the chain's 160 stores.