The end of HEMA? Dutch retail chain could face bankruptcy after Monday

We all love HEMA — but we could be seeing its final days. A loan of 50 million euros becomes due on Monday. If the holding company of the department store cannot pay it, creditors could file for bankruptcy. 

If you thought the famous Dutch tompouce-selling, flat-price setting, unpronounceable name-having store was invincible, you were (sadly) wrong. The Dutch retail business has been making a loss for years. Now, they’re 750 million in debt — that’s about 750 million one euro hotdogs — with tens of millions in interest accruing each year.

At the end of 2018, Dutch investor Marcel Boekhoorn took over HEMA from the British company Lion. He vowed at the time to reduce the debt burden — but has failed to keep the promise so far. His attempts to sell the HEMA bakeries have been unsuccessful, so cash has been limited, reports RTL Nieuws.

Boekhoorn is involved in a tough battle with the creditors of HEMA, who are primarily the holders of bond-loans. The creditors want to partially erase the debt, but become the owner of the company.

Will the Dutch government step in?

Reports emerged earlier this week that the Dutch government could provide a bailout to HEMA. It’s possible that the government could guarantee the repayment part of the loans. However, it’s unlikely. HEMA is not a company of national or strategic importance, no matter how iconic its stores are.

Of course, the Dutch government do have one reason to guarantee the payment: HEMA employs nearly ten thousand employees in the Netherlands. If HEMA could promise to maintain these jobs, the government may be willing to step in. But there are critics: why should taxpayers fund a company that is owned by one of the richest people in the Netherlands?

Can’t Boekhoorn just pay the 50 million on Monday?

While HEMA has 750 million in bonds outstanding, they only need to be paid by 2022 and 2023. But it’s HEMA’s holding company, PIK Notes, owned by holding company AMEH, that needs to pay the 50 million by Monday. Boekhoorn could technically step in, cough up the money, and pay the debt — but the future of HEMA is even more uncertain because of the coronavirus crisis.

READ MORE: HEMA is venturing to the US and Canada and will be known as “HEMA Amsterdam”

What happens if the debt isn’t paid on Monday?

If AMEH doesn’t pay off the loans, creditors could sue for bankruptcy of the whole company. While we are unsure whether that also means HEMA will go bankrupt, it is a possibility. “Although the PIK loan is outside HEMA, failure to meet the repayment obligation will also mean that HEMA will not meet its obligations,” investor service Moody’s warned in late March. It’s expected that PIK will try to postpone the repayment term — but who knows if it will work.

Do you think the Dutch government should guarantee the loan to keep HEMA operating? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Feature Image: HEMA

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Samantha Dixon
Sam isn’t great at being Dutch. Originally hailing from Australia, she came to study in the Netherlands without knowing where the country was on a map. She once accidentally ordered the entire ice-cream menu at Smullers. She still can’t jump on the back of a moving bike. But, she remains fascinated by the tiny land of tall people.

1 COMMENT

  1. Any private company should look first to the owners, then the shareholders, for any money. Branson tried to get British taxpayers to help support his airline, but yielded to negative sentiment among the more commonsense Brits.

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