June 6, 2019 / 10:27 AM / 13 days ago

Stefanel shares suspended as fashion brand struggles to survive

MILAN (Reuters) - Shares in Stefanel were suspended on Thursday until further notice after the troubled Italian clothing group said it would apply for special administration under bankruptcy law.

The move is a last bid for survival for the 60-year-old fashion brand, globally known in the 1980s along with rival Benetton as a retail chain of affordable Italian fashion.

In recent years it has been heavily hit by increasing competition from fast-fashion giants and e-commerce.

In 2017, after a debt restructuring, investment fund Attestor Capital took control of the financially stressed company through a capital increase that diluted the stake of founder Giuseppe Stefanel to 16%.

The re-launch failed to succeed and Stefanel, which has been without a CEO since July last year, decided in December to seek creditor protection.

It had time until mid-June to present a restructuring plan to a bankruptcy court but it couldn’t reach agreement with the holders of its 40 million euros debt — creditor banks and Attestor itself.

“The decision was required because of the big amount of money to be used to refund creditors next year, resources which would have thus been taken away from the recovery plan,” the company’s board said in a letter to employees on Thursday.

Reuters has seen a copy of the letter.

“The board believed that placing the company under special administration will better preserve Stefanel relaunch.”

Under Italian law, a court will have to declare the company to be insolvent and then appoint one or more special administrators tasked with coming up with a new restructuring plan in an attempt to avoid liquidation.

Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi; Editing by Mark Bendeich

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