Deal for Peacocks in jeopardy over claims of unpaid debts to Bangladeshi suppliers

Fresh investment for retail chain Peacocks has been put in danger by claims that its owner Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group has not paid its bills, i understands.

In the latest war of words between the company and a trade organisation which represents some of its Bangladesh-based suppliers, chairman John Herring is understood to have said in a letter that advanced negotiations with a prominent US investor overtaking a stake in Peacocks had been threatened. 

EWM Group brought in advisers to size up its Peacocks chain last month, following an unsolicited approach. It is understood that discussions are ongoing over the possibility of selling a minority shareholding of the brand to an American investment firm in order to fund its online expansion. 

But it is thought that the company now fears for the completion of the sale due to an ongoing dispute over whether it has paid its suppliers. 

The argument is over a claim made by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association in May that the firm had £27m in unpaid debts to businesses which are members of the organisation. 

EWM slams BGMEA’s ‘frightening’ approach

It is understood that the BGMEA’s chairman Dr Rubana Huq responded to a previous letter from Mr Herring to clarify that EWM Group has paid its suppliers “to a considerable extent” and that the amount owed is less than what was originally circulated, but she insisted there were still “unpaid bills”. EWM Group released a statement last month saying it has paid off all its bills, and has also previously said it does not recognise the £27m figure. 

Mr Herring has now called for an investigation into how the figure was released to the media, calling the BGMEA’s “overdue” response to the issue “quite frankly frightening”. 

In his latest letter, he is understood to have called the organisation’s comments “baseless and careless”.

Earlier this week, it emerged that the disputed figure has also put pressure on the company’s relationship with credit insurers. 

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