UK retailer House of Fraser says to enter administration

LONDON - Britain's House of Fraser, the Chinese-owned department store chain, said Friday that it is set to enter administration, placing 17,500 jobs under threat.

The 169-year-old company is the latest in a string of major British high-street names to fall victim to fierce online competition, rising business rates and stretched household budgets amid Brexit uncertainty.

"House of Fraser announces that its discussions with interested investors and its main secured creditors have not concluded in a solvent solution," it said in a statement to the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, where the company's bonds are listed.

"The directors of the group's operating companies ... have therefore resolved to seek the appointment of administrators," it said, adding progress had been made selling off assets.

The retail chain, which is currently controlled by Chinese conglomerate Sanpower, added that it would seek to appoint Ernst & Young as administrators later this morning.

Administration is the process whereby a troubled company calls upon independent financial help in a bid to restructure the business and remain operational.

"Significant progress has been made towards completing a sale of the group's business and assets," it added on Friday.

"The proposed administrators are expected to continue to progress those discussions with a view to concluding a transaction shortly after their appointment."

House of Fraser chief executive Alex Williamson added: “We are hopeful that the current negotiations will shortly be concluded."

Friday's news comes after the retailer revealed last week that it had lost a proposed investment from the Chinese owner of Hamleys and was looking for a new rescuer.

House of Fraser had already said in June that it was shutting 31 of its 59 stores across Britain and Ireland.

The group had announced the drastic restructuring after agreeing on a 51-percent sale to China's C.banner International Holdings, which already owns the London toy retailer Hamleys, for £70 million (79 million euros, $92 million).

However, C.banner said a slump in its own share price had rendered the transaction "impracticable and inadvisable", and it axed the deal.