Folli expects creditor rescue talks to conclude in coming weeks

Credit: REUTERS/Costas Baltas

Talks between Greek jeweller Folli Follie and creditors over a rescue plan are at a "critical" stage and are expected to conclude in the coming weeks, its chairman said on Tuesday.

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Talks between Greek jeweller Folli Follie HDFr.AT and creditors over a rescue plan are at a "critical" stage and are expected to conclude in the coming weeks, its chairman said on Tuesday.

Folli has been in turmoil since a hedge fund report in May last year questioned its accounting.

It published its delayed audited 2017 statements in July, showing it overstated annual revenue by more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), and presented an alternative overhaul scheme to bondholders after a previous proposal collapsed.

Talks with the bondholders have been ongoing for months.

"Negotiations with the bondholders are at a critical juncture," Folli's Chairman Abraham Gounaris told shareholders who met to approve the company's 2017 statements.

"We estimate that these negotiations will produce a result in the forthcoming weeks."

He added: "There are grounds for our optimism, even if it is contained."

Folli shares have been suspended since May last year and the company has been fined by Greece's securities watchdog and founders Dimitris Koutsolioutsos and his wife, Ekaterini, resigned as chairman and vice chairperson, respectively. Koutsolioutsos owns a 35% stake in Folli, while China's Fosun 0656.HK holds 16.4%, Refinitiv Eikon data shows.

The restructuring plan includes shutting down loss-making stores and transferring core business assets to a new company that will be wholly owned by Folli. Non-core and real estate assets with an estimated market value of about 90 million euros will pass to creditors.

Along with shareholders approval of its 2017 statements, Folli needs an agreement of at least 60% of creditors on the rescue plan before it can file it with Greek courts.

Folli has said that the plan along with a proposed issuance of a 5-year note will be much more beneficial to creditors than an orderly wind-down or bankruptcy where it could take five to seven years for creditors to recover their profits.

Folli has debt of about 430 million euros ($474.68 million)due this year and in 2021. It distributes international apparel brands in Greece, including Nike, along with its luxury jewellery, and operates department stores.

"The company, despite the very serious problems it is facing on all fronts. paying its workers on time, is paying the Greek state, is paying its suppliers on heavy terms," Gounaris said. "Our aim is to not see the company falling apart."

($1 = 0.9059 euros)

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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