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A British-Canadian bidder has criticized collapsed retailer Wilko, questioning PwC managers about whether the process was “fair and transparent” as pressure mounts to address the discount chain’s future .
M2 Capital said it submitted an offer of “more than $100 million” to the entire group minutes before midnight on Friday, and wrote to PwC chairman Bob Moritz on Tuesday, complaining bidding process.
In an email seen by the Financial Times, Robert Mantse, the chairman of M2 and formerly of PwC, claimed the private equity firm had to file on Monday during a British public holiday. Final offer and proof of financing without submitting final offer and proof of financing. Granted access to secure data room to examine Wilko’s finances.
However, a source with knowledge of the process questioned the seriousness of M2’s bid and whether it would have enough money to buy Wilko outright, as the company did not provide further details on Monday in response to inquiries from managers.
Mantse did not respond to a query from the Financial Times about M2’s ability to finance the acquisition.
M2’s criticism follows the downfall of Wilko this month, which has put the future of 400 stores and about 12,500 jobs in doubt.
The GMB union, which represents thousands of Wilko workers, wrote to the business secretary on Monday calling for an emergency meeting to discuss the government. Some bidders reported “difficulty” accessing PwC insolvency experts, it claimed.
GMB national secretary Andy Prendergast said: “We believe that redundancies should not take place if meaningful offers are made to protect jobs.”
Mantes spoke to Prendergast last week as M2 prepared to bid for Wilko, according to the letter, seen by the Financial Times.
Separately, Canadian tycoon Doug Putman, who owns HMV, is also interested in buying most of Wilko’s store estate, according to two people familiar with the matter, as are other British discount chains. Putman declined to comment.
Commenting on M2’s communications, PwC said: “We wholeheartedly reject the claims and characterizations in this open letter. We are running a fair and transparent sale process and remain focused on our responsibility to ensure the best possible outcome for all creditors, while preserving as many jobs as possible.”
They added: “We are actively engaging with all interested parties to assess the deliverability of all bids and to request necessary information. It would be inappropriate to comment on individual bidders or interested parties at this stage of the process .”
GMB said saving jobs should be a priority even if it meant a worse deal for creditors such as Hilco. Hilco, a restructuring specialist, provided a £40m loan to the chain before it collapsed.
The union said it was concerned about the implications for Hilco, which is advising PwC separately, and may liquidate some assets, including shares, if no bidder is found.
A source close to Hilco said the lender had no say in PwC’s decision and what Wilko’s final outcome would be. The firm, which became Wilko’s lender before PwC was appointed administrator, typically advises high-profile retail regulators to ensure maximum returns for creditors. Sirko declined to comment.
A government spokesman said it would “continue to stand firm” for British workers, but did not confirm whether a meeting with unions would be held. “While this is a commercial decision . . . we know this will be a worrying time for Wilko’s workers,” they added.