Company That Owns £210M Former Toys R Us Portfolio Heads For Administration
The company that owns a big chunk of Toys R Us’ former U.K. property portfolio could be put into administration, as part of a legal row over who owns the now-vacant assets.
Late last week the lenders to a portfolio of 24 retail units and a distribution centre moved to appoint partners of Smith & Williamson as administrators to Toys R Us Properties (U.K.). The company is ultimately owned by Lancashire-based property investor Tim Knowles.
Accounts for the company show that the value of the portfolio has fallen from £423M in January 2017 to £208M in February 2018, the date of the accounts, as a result of Toys R Us going into administration and the properties becoming vacant. They were bought for £507M, and there is £263M of debt secured against the portfolio.
That debt was securitised, with a big chunk of the bonds having been bought by PIMCO. The special servicer of the bonds, CBRE Loan Services, moved to appoint Smith & Williamson as administrators to Toys R Us Properties (U.K.).
In a notice to bondholders, CBRE Loan Services also said it had asked the U.K. High Court to issue an order blocking the sale of any of the properties or shares in the company before administrators take control of the company.
A legal row has broken out over the ownership of the portfolio, with a prior claim having been filed by CBRE with the High Court in December.
The portfolio was being managed by a company called Solutus, also owned by Knowles. It moved to sell the portfolio to a separate company, called Bollinway, with the same owner. But CBRE sought a High Court order blocking that sale and looking to wrest back control of the assets. The appointment of administrators would see control and management of the portfolio removed from any company owned or controlled by Knowles.
Agents Cushman & Wakefield and Morgan Williams had been appointed to relet or sell the assets, to try and repay the outstanding debt. It is not clear whether that process is still ongoing. But if the appointment of administrators goes ahead it will no longer be Solutus driving the process, and the portfolio could be sold on the open market.
The portfolio is vacant, and there are few retailers in the out-of-town big-box sector expanding. Selling the sites to a last-mile logistics provider could be an option.
All parties declined to comment.