Parent Company Of Ann Taylor, Dressbarn And Lane Bryant Making Its Creditors Nervous
These are nervous times in the retail industry, so it doesn't take much to concern retail industry creditors. Reportedly the holders of about $1.4B in Ascena Retail Group debt are worried about the company's lack of communication with them, which is raising concerns about whether Ascena (parent of a slew of apparel brands, including Ann Taylor and Dressbarn) is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection.
The company hasn't returned the lenders’ calls and emails for at least a month, the New York Post reports, citing unnamed sources. The lending group, which includes Franklin Resources, Eaton Vance, Lord Abbett and Greywolf Capital, has retained legal counsel in the event a legal battle erupts over the debts, Fox Business reports.
The retailer hasn't missed any payments on its debt, but its creditors haven't seen any of the proceeds from the sale of the Maurices retail chain in May, the Post reports. That influx of capital was supposed to help pay down Ascena's debts.
The Post previously reported that Ascena told Dressbarn landlords it will tie up their properties in bankruptcy court unless they relieve Dressbarn of its lease obligations. Ascena hasn't commented on any of these reports as yet.
Ascena has said its Dressbarn shutdown is on track, with all its retail stores expected to close by the end of 2019. Earlier this year, New Jersey-based Ascena tapped A&G Realty Partners to assist with real estate matters related to the process of winding down Dressbarn.
“We have received overwhelming landlord support for our plan," Dressbarn Chief Financial Officer Steven Taylor said in a statement. "Further, we are current, and expect to remain so, with our vendors and suppliers."
Ascena sold its Maurices brand, a discount retailer, to European investors for about $300M. Dressbarn is Ascena's only other discount chain, but it also owns upmarket Ann Taylor, Loft, and Lou & Grey, along with the plus fashion specialists Lane Bryant, Catherines and Cacique, and tween specialist Justice. The company owns about 3,500 stores all together.
Ascena reported a loss of $1.20/share for the third quarter of its fiscal 2019, which ended May 4, compared to a loss of $0.20/share in the same quarter a year earlier. During the third quarter, the company's comparable-store sales were essentially flat year over year.
Investors seem to have little confidence in Ascena. At the beginning of 2019, shares in the company sold for about $2.80 each, but it has been downhill ever since. Currently, Ascena trades in penny stock territory, at about $0.26/share.