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Hundreds of Kent jobs at risk as high street giant BHS falls into administration

PUBLISHED: 12:33 25 April 2016 | UPDATED: 12:33 25 April 2016

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The retailer has stores in Maidstone, Hempstead Valley, Gravesend, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford

High street retailer BHS has collapsed into administration, putting 11,000 jobs at risk and threatening the closure of up to 164 stores, including five in Kent.

The retailer has stores in Maidstone, Hempstead Valley, Gravesend, Tunbridge Wells and Ashford.

It is the biggest retail failure since Woolworths went bust in 2008.

In a statement, administrators Duff & Phelps said: “The group (BHS) has been undergoing restructuring and, as has been widely reported, the shareholders have been in negotiations to find a buyer for the business. These negotiations have been unsuccessful.

“In addition property sales have not materialised as expected in both number and value. Consequently, as a result of a lower-than-expected cash balance, the group is very unlikely to meet all contractual payments.

“The directors therefore have no alternative but to put the group into administration to protect it for all creditors. The group will continue to trade as usual whilst the administrators seek to sell it as a going concern.”

The company’s owner, Dominic Chappell, said he will continue to work with the administrators to “find a solution post the administration”.

He also said “no-one is to blame” for the collapse.

Mr Chappell said: “No-one is to blame. It was a combination of bad trading and not being able to raise enough money from the property portfolio.

“In the end, we just couldn’t reach an agreement with Arcadia over pensions.”

BHS was bought last year by a consortium called Retail Acquisitions, headed by Mr Chappell, for £1 from retail entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, the owner of the Arcadia retail empire.

BHS has debts of more than £1.3 billion, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million, which proved a major stumbling block in last-ditch rescue talks over the weekend.

Rival retailer Sports Direct is understood to want to some of BHS’s 164 stores, but will only do so if it does not have to take on any pension liabilities.

Sir Philip is reported to have offered £80 million towards the cost of BHS pensions, though the regulator could still pursue further payment from the retail billionaire.

Sir Philip bought BHS for £200 million in 2000.

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