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Eason owners move ahead with €20m property payday plans

Winding up of property arm won’t affect firm's retail business


Eason’s store on 33 Shop Street, Galway

Eason’s store on 33 Shop Street, Galway

Eason’s store on 33 Shop Street, Galway

EASON shareholders have proceeded with the voluntary appointment of a liquidator to a property arm in order to finalise a €20m distribution to the company’s owners.

Company filings confirm that a liquidator – David O’Connor of BDO – was appointed to Eason Holdings Plc last week.

There are 230 shareholders who voted this month to voluntarily liquidate the firm, which owned properties from which the retail arm of Eason traded.

Eason’s retail business and its property assets were separated into two distinct companies in 2019. The retail arm continues to trade under a company called Eason Retail Plc, which is not affected by the property arm’s liquidation.

Ten of the Eason properties have been sold, and from those proceeds the Eason property arm injected €20m into the retail business as part of that process in order to underpin its capital base.

It had been expected that all the Eason properties would have been sold by now, but three sites – including the landmark store on Dublin’s O’Connell Street – have not hit the market yet due to the pandemic, which has significantly challenged most bricks-and-mortar retail businesses.

Those three properties have been hived off into a new company controlled by Eason shareholders and will be sold at a later date. The retail arm of Eason – owned by the same shareholders as the property unit - has been severely challenged by the pandemic.

It emerged in August that the Eason Ltd and Eason Operations Ltd have been sued by the owners of a property in Galway from which it trades in a dispute over rent.

The High Court action comes just months after the property was sold to its current French owners in a €7.5m sale and leaseback deal.

Initially the property had carried a €8m price tag.

Eason agreed to sell the historic Shop Street property last year and leased it back under a 25-year agreement at a rent of €525,000 a year, according to a sales brochure prepared ahead of the deal by agents Bannon.

In July, Eason announced that it was not reopening seven outlets it has in Northern Ireland, which had been closed due to the Covid lockdown there.

Eason has a 200-year history and employs more than 1,000 staff across divisions that include retail, wholesaling and distribution of books, newspapers and stationery.

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