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Burger chain Byron weighs virus crisis financing options

Sky News logo Sky News 6 days ago Mark Kleinman, City editor
a store front at night: Byron had already been hit by the slowdown in casual dining that followed the UK's Brexit vote © PA Byron had already been hit by the slowdown in casual dining that followed the UK's Brexit vote

The burger chain Byron has hired advisers to explore options for accessing emergency funding as Britain's casual dining sector teeters on the brink of collapse.

Sky News has learnt that Byron, which trades from just 51 restaurants following a financial restructuring two years ago, has drafted in KPMG to examine ways of shoring up its balance sheet.

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The appointment comes as thousands of companies assess their eligibility for tapping the blizzard of government aid schemes unveiled by the Treasury during the last ten days to help fight the COVID-19 crisis.

Byron, which completed a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) to shed loss-making stores and cut rents in 2018, employs about 1200 people.

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The CVA was also handled by KPMG.

The chain is understood to be keen to "furlough" the majority of its workforce by accessing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been set up to pay up to 80% of employees' wages- with a ceiling of £2500-a-month.

However, because the burger chain has a turnover of more than £45m but does not have an investment-grade credit rating, it is not eligible for the £330bn Covid Corporate Finance Facility established to provide cheap loans.

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Businesses have expressed alarm this week that the money they need urgently under those schemes is not materialising with sufficient speed.

Restaurant chains have been granted a 12-month business rates holiday, VAT deferral, and access to a separate grant scheme depending upon the rateable value of their properties.

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Many, such as Burger King, Carluccio's and Yo!, the sushi chain, have withheld quarterly rent bills that were due this week.

UK Hospitality, the trade association, has warned that more than 1m jobs are at risk without the immediate delivery of financial support to the sector.

Responding to an enquiry from Sky News, Simon Wilkinson, Byron's chief excecutive, said: "In common with most businesses in the sector we are actively exploring the recently announced government support initiatives and have engaged KPMG to help with this."

One source said further financing options, potentially including a sale or capital-raise, were also expected to be explored with KPMG's assistance.

Byron is majority-owned by Three Hills Capital Partners, a private equity firm.

Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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