Tag: bankruptcy

By Roy Cokayne for IOL

The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) has been placed under administration.

This is after Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies last month removed the entire SABS board because he had lost faith in its ability to effectively manage the bureau.

In May this year, Davies confirmed that the bureau was bleeding customers and potential revenue and in March this year he instructed its management to urgently oversee a detailed process to develop a turnaround strategy.

Davies on Friday announced the appointment of three SABS co-administrators, SABS group operating officer Jodi Scholtz, the deputy director-general of the Industrial Development Division at the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) Garth Strachan, and the chief director of technical infrastructure institutions at the dti, Tshenge Demana.

He said the co-administrators were charged with producing a diagnostic report and turnaround action plan.

They hade been appointed for the period from July 2 this year until January 30 next year and in terms of the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act, they had been given all powers and duties necessary or incidental for the proper functioning of the SABS. Sidwell Medupe, a spokesperson for the dti, on Friday confirmed that SABS chief executive Boni Mehlomakulu, who as chief executive was a member of the bureau’s board, had been dismissed as a board member, along with the other board members. Medupe also confirmed that Mehlomakulu now reported to and took instructions from the co-administrators.

The SABS last year reported a R44.3 million loss for its 2016/17 financial year.

The SABS has been in the spotlight since it emerged that it irregularly certified substandard coal by Guptalinked mines to facilitate the suspension imposed by Eskom on another supplier to pave the way for the Gupta-owned Tegeta contract to go ahead.

However, the problems at the SABS go much deeper than that and it has received widespread criticism in the past few years from many industries about the level of service these industries were receiving from the bureau.

Business Report reported in January last year that South Africa’s coatings industry claimed the SABS’s paint testing laboratories appeared to be non-operational.

The Master Chemical Blenders Association, which collectively represents more than 50 companies, last year told Business Report that their members were unable to get their compliance certificates from the SABS, despite interacting directly with Mehlomakulu and that the SABS did not have testing capability and that many were possibly no longer compliant.

The SA National Accreditation System (Sanas), which is responsible for accrediting industry bodies and laboratories that conduct testing and is recognised through legislation as the only national body responsible for carrying out accreditation, suspended the certification programmes of the SABS, but subsequently lifted this suspension in March 2016, claiming the suspension was of an administrative nature.

Complaints Many other industries have complained to Business Report about the level of service provided by the SABS. Davies last month confirmed that he had received many complaints from both big and small business, including complaints from black industrial players, that the government was working hard to expand, about the lack of service from the SABS.

Davies confirmed in response to a parliamentary question in May that the SABS had lost 1 052 customers since its 2015/16 financial year, including 401 customers since April this year, resulting in a loss of revenue to the bureau of almost R50m in this period.

In addition, the SABS had to refund 41 customers a total of R1.03m in this period.

Davies said the peak in customer losses was in the SABS’s 2016/17 financial year, due to customers cancelling their permits and certificates with the SABS.

The reasons for the cancellations included the suspension of SABS certification programmes by Sanas; customers moving to competitors; and expired certificates and permits.

Toys R Us files for bankruptcy

Toys R Us has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company announced Monday.

The bankruptcy filing helps the Wayne New Jersey-based toy retailer relieve itself of the debt left over from its $6.6 billion acquisition by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Bain Capital Partners and real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust in a 2005 deal valued at $6.6 billion.

The retailer has $4.9 billion in debt, $400-million of which has interest payments due in 2018 and $1.7 billion of which is due in 2019.

“Today marks the dawn of a new era at Toys”R”Us where we expect that the financial constraints that have held us back will be addressed in a lasting and effective way,” said Dave Brandon, the company’s chairman and CEO, said in a release announcing the filing.

“We are confident that these are the right steps to ensure that the iconic Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us brands live on for many generations,” he adds.

The toy seller also intends to seek protection in parallel proceedings for its Canadian subsidiary.

The company said it will continue to operate as usual its approximately 1,600 Toy R Us and Babies R Us stores around the world. The company’s operations outside of the U.S. and Canada are not part of the protections proceedings, it said.

The retailer said that it has already received a commitment from some lenders, including a JPMorgan-led syndicate, for over $3-billion in debtor-in-possession financing. Although that’s subject to court approval, Toys R Us said it “is expected to immediately improve the Company’s financial health and support its ongoing operations during the
court-supervised process.”

Restructuring that debt would give Toys R Us the financial flexibility to continue its turnaround. Initiatives include improving its website and revamping its Babies R Us business, by focusing on items like cribs that are less likely than diapers to be sold on Amazon.

A bankruptcy filing will also help the retailer manage the the crucial holiday season and give vendors like Mattel and Hasbro clarity into its long-term plans.

For its owners, the bankruptcy filing ends a chapter that started at a time when private equity dove into the retail industry, buoyed by low interest rates and the attraction of recognizable names. That flurry has come back to haunt many, as debt burdens have made it difficult for retailers to make the necessary investments to adjust to the rapidly changing retail industry.

Private equity-backed Payless ShoeSource and Gymboree are among those that have filed for bankruptcy over the past two years.

For Vornado, the deal was a bet on the value of Toys R Us’s real estate. It came just a year after K-Mart and Sears merged in an $11-billion deal based on the idea that combining the real estate value of the struggling stores would strengthen both.

Many retailers have over the past year shed their real estate footprint, finding the U.S. store-base too vast and too out of sync with the many American shoppers that no longer go to the mall.

By Lauren Hirsh for CNBC

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