Vultures hover over Dick Smith

Dick-Smith-Nick-AboudDick Smith CEO Nick Abboud has resigned as interest in the electronics retailer mounts.

Abboud took the reins when private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners bought the company from Woolworths in November 2012 for $115 million. He was at the helm when the company was floated on the stock exchange for $520 million just over a year later.

Abboud has been described as “incredibly regretful” about the company’s demise and the uncertainty the company’s shareholders and staff have had to endure and was willing to assist the receivers sell the business as a going concern.

The demise has hit him personally as he was the company’s second largest shareholder with 15.3 million shares which were worth A$34 million when the company floated but fell to $5.4 million at the time of administration.

Abboud’s base salary was estimated at approximately $1.25 million and he received 10 per cent of his maximum performance bonus in 2015, leaving him with a total remuneration of $1.4 million, down from a $2.6 million package in 2014.

Unlike many other CEOs in his place, he departs with his final day’s salary.

Former CEO of Retail Fusion Brands and Dymocks, Don Grover, has been appointed interim CEO as receiver Ferrier Hodgson tries to restructure and sell the business.

Forager Funds CEO Steve Johnson said that it was not unusual for the boss of a collapsed business to quit but he was surprised that another CEO had been appointed, indicating the availability of a position into the future if the business is sold as a going concern.

Immediate business goes on though and the business was advertised for sale on Tuesday.

An advertising campaign was also launched to sell the indebted (debt of about $390 million) consumer electronics chain.

Secured creditors are owed about $140 million and unsecured creditors about $250 million.

Receivers say about 40 initial expressions of interest have already been made. They are seeking further expressions of interest by January 27.

Analysts are predicting suitors would likely pick the company apart for the good bits, like one would do to an outdated computer, rather than take on the business in its entirety.

“The vultures are hovering around the carcass now and who comes away with what is of most interest now,” optionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said.

“The New Zealand part of the business potentially represents the most value to interested buyers.”

IG market strategist Evan Lucas said JB Hi-Fi may be an interested buyer given the electronics retailer has wanted to expand into NZ.

“It is unlikely that the chain will be bought as one and more likely that it will be broken up with the better performing stores sold off with some of the monies recouped that way,” he said.

“It would make sense if JB Hi-Fi showed interest in the NZ part of the business.”

He said Dick Smith’s NZ business had a better brand structure and better store locations than its Australian arm.

JB Hi-Fi declined to comment.

Gerry Harvey, founder of electronics and furniture retailer Harvey Norman, said his company had no interest in the Dick Smith chain.

“If you gave me a hundred million I still wouldn’t touch it,” Harvey told AAP.

“It is a poison chalice.”

Dick Smith’s shares were suspended from trading on the ASX last week after its banking syndicate withdrew support and put the company in receivership.

The stock last traded at 35.5 cents on the ASX, having tumbled 84 per cent from the A2.20 a share Anchorage Capital Partners set for its initial public offering in 2013.

JB Hi-Fi’s share price has received a strong boost from its collapse.

The 48-year-old company has 393 stores across Australia and NZ under four brands, Dick Smith, Electronics powered by Dick Smith, Move, and Move by Dick Smith.


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