Comet to start sale as buyers eye up stores

 
Marion Dakers
COMET will this week kick off a fire sale of its remaining stock, though staff and shoppers remain in the dark about the future of the electrical goods retailer.

Comet, which called in the administrators on Friday, intends to open its 236 stores as normal this week.

The firm’s website has been closed to new orders, and Comet and administrator Deloitte have temporarily barred the use of gift vouchers in-store while they figure out whether they will be honoured – a decision that is expected within days.

Comet’s 6,611 employees have been told to show up for work until further notice.

OpCapita, which bought Comet for a nominal £2 less than a year ago, is expected to keep Comet’s extended warranty business Triptych, which is part of the administration.

When it bought Comet from Kesa last November, OpCapita was given a dowry payment of £50m, which it then loaned to Comet and charged interest. It is also believed to have put further funds into the retailer.

OpCapita is a secured creditor and is thought to be first in line if Deloitte manages to realise cash from the firm.

Deloitte said it is undertaking an “urgent process to seek a suitable buyer”, though there is little hope of a rescuer taking on the entire chain.

No concrete bids have yet emerged, though names in the frame for a handful of stores include Dixons, Maplin and John Lewis.

Shares in rival firm Dixons shot up 10.5 per cent on Friday, as investors bought into the idea that Comet’s loss would be Dixons’ gain.

Analysts at Seymour Pierce said rivals could see “some disruption” in the next few weeks as Comet’s deep discounts lure in customers, but that Dixons “would certainly be a beneficiary” from the loss of its competitor.