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OpCapita’s Comet deal under scrutiny as taxpayers face redundancy bill

18 Dec 2012

OpCapita’s £2 buyout of beleaguered electrical retailer Comet is being investigated by the UK Government after complaints from MPs over its handling of the business.

British taxpayers are facing a £49.4m bill for unpaid redundancies and tax after the company sank into administration last month, despite OpCapita holding vehicle Hailey Acquisitions walking away with £50m as a secured creditor.

That is down £95m on the amount Hailey is owed, but leaves it in a better position than £26.2m unsecured government creditor HM Revenue and Customs, which will received nothing.

Private equity firm OpCapita bought the beleaguered chain from Anglo-French electrical giant Kesa for a nominal fee of £2 in November last year, with Kesa also providing a £50m investment into the firm’s Hailey 2 fund.

Kesa decided to shed the company from its holdings following a share slump early last year.

Comet crashed into administration after suffering a “cash crunch” in the run-up to Christmas, which led to suppliers demanding stricter terms such as upfront payments from the store chain.

About 3,000 staff are facing unemployment following the company’s last day of trading today, with 3,500 more having already been made redundant or leaving since Deloitte began handling the administration.

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