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BrightHouse agrees €220m deal with creditors

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
The rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse is to unveil a ?220m financial restructuring that will see funds connected to the private equity giant Apollo Management owning nearly half of its shares.
Sky News has learnt that a deal is expected to be announced between BrightHouse's bondholders and its management within days.
One insider suggested that it could be unveiled as soon as Thursday afternoon.Sources said that Henry Staunton, the former ITV finance director who is BrightHouse's chairman, is expected to step down after the deal completes early next year.Headhunters at Egon Zehnder International have been appointed to find his successor and a number of other new board members, they added.Confirmation of the debt-for-equity swap will end months of uncertainty about the future of BrightHouse, which was recently in the spotlight when it emerged that The Queen's estate had a small holding in the company.Under the deal, the chain's previous owner, private equity firm Vision Capital, will be left with an equity stake of just 3%, according to people briefed on the proposals.Apollo and Alteri Investors, a specialist turnaround fund it backs, will own almost half of the company's shares, with a number of other debtholders including HSBC having sold their positions.The deal still requires the formal approval of creditors and the City regulator, and may be switched to a scheme of arrangement in order to lower the acceptance threshold to 75%, sources said.If completed, the restructuring will come just weeks after BrightHouse was ordered to pay a €15m compensation bill to customers by the City watchdog.The high street group rents household appliances such as refrigerators and televisions at its nationwide network of nearly 300 outlets.BrightHouse has been through a torrid period, with mounting losses resulting from growing regulatory scrutiny.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently ordered it to repay nearly 250,000 customers for failing to act as a "responsible lender".More than 80,000 people had not been properly assessed by BrightHouse for their ability to repay their loans, which accrue interest at such a rate that the cheapest washing machine available to customers ended up costing them more than €1,000.The FCA's authorisation will be required before the change of control at BrightHouse can take place.Under the bondholders' plans, ‎the consortium of investors will exchange about half of its existing €220m of debt for equity.The remainder of the existing debt, which matures next May, will remain on BrightHouse's balance sheet.Alteri Investors, the largest bondholder, has reached an agreement in principle with the other major lenders, which include Highbridge Capital Management, HSBC and Oceanwood Capital Management, according to City sources.Advisers to BrightHouse launched a formal sale process for the struggling company by reaching out to prospective buyers, although few observers had expected anyone other than the bondholders to gain control of the company.It is not the only rent-to-own retailer to have run into trouble.
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Buy As You View, another large player in the market, recently collapsed into administration, while one of the biggest stakeholders in Perfect Home has called in advisers to evaluate options for dealing with its exposure.BrightHouse declined to comment.
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