Hema saved at last minute? Blokker parent makes takeover bid

Hema store in Amsterdam
Hema store in AmsterdamNL TimesNL Times

This story was updated.

The parent of Dutch general store chain Blokker has reportedly made an offer to acquire the beleaguered and iconic Dutch retail store Hema. Mirage Retail Group entered into discussions with Hema owner Marcel Boekhoorn and their creditors last week, announcing their intentions to the public in interviews with several Dutch media outlets on Sunday.

Terms of the offer were not disclosed. Hema has been in serious financial trouble for years and was reportedly saddled with debt while owned by British private equity firm Lion Capital.

Hema has debt obligations of 50 million euros due on Monday, and is 800 million in the red in total. Failure to meet the Monday deadline will make it possible for creditors to demand payment on the entire outstanding debt obligation, which could lead to a change in ownership at the retail chain.

Boekhoorn's investment firm Ramphastos issued a statement on Sunday which said, "that lengthy negotiations have failed to result in an agreement with the largest group of HEMA bondholders." The group said Boekhoorn put 115 million euros into the business since he took it over in 2018, but had not been able to make a meaningful dent in the retail firm's debt levels.

"We entered into the negotiations with the aim of bringing HEMA out of it stronger. We therefore put forward a fantastic offer of 523 million euro, but I do not get the impression that the counterparty gave serious consideration to our offer," Boekhoorn said. "Apparently, they want to conduct a market test to see if they could get more elsewhere. I do not think that this is in HEMA’s best interests and there is a very real chance that the company will once again fall prey to opportunistic investors. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be, but I remain convinced that as the majority shareholder we have an excellent, forward-looking strategy for HEMA. Our offer would reduce the company’s debts by half a billion euro and would enable HEMA to continue as a healthily-funded business.”

In response to Boekhoorn, Hema's bond holders said in a statement that the retail chain "is in final stages of discussions ... on a recapitalisation plan that will significantly reduce debt and improve HEMA’s financial flexibility." A final agreement was expected to be announced shortly.

The Dutch retailer says it has 19 thousand employees with 750 retail locations in 11 different countries. More than half of those workers are in the Netherlands.