Azzurri Group appoints advisors to help navigate coronavirus crisis: Azzurri Group, the ASK Italian, Zizzi and Coco di Mama operator, has become the latest sector operator to appoint advisors as it seeks to navigate its way through the lock-down and out the other side. The Bridgepoint-backed business, which operates circa 300 sites, has appointed KPMG as it looks to “take action to secure the future of the business”. Like the majority of the sector, the company has already suspended payments to landlords and is using the furlough scheme to pay most of its staff. However, like some private equity-backed companies, it is yet to discover whether it is eligible for a business interruption loan. It is thought one option that might be considered is a trimming of both its ASK and Zizzi estates. Chief executive Steve Holmes told Propel: “As you know, before the crisis we were a very successful business delivering consistent like-for-like sales and profit growth. Since lock-down we have acted very quickly to put the business into hibernation and take out all costs possible, making sure particularly we did everything we could for our teams. Now hibernation has been successfully achieved we need to take action to secure the future of the business. The crisis has hit the whole sector hard and, as you would expect, we need to get the best advice possible as we look towards reopening.” It was revealed earlier this month FTI was advising the syndicate of banks that have loaned money to Azzurri. It is understood Azzurri extended its facilities with its banks before Easter to give the company liquidity through this “hibernation” period. FTI was advising the group’s seven banking partners on that process. Yesterday (Saturday, 2 May), Propel reported Byron, the casual dinner burger chain, had instructed KPMG to explore a sale of the business by way of an auction this coming week. It is understood KPMG will be targeting a range of potential acquirers, including investment funds and corporates. KPMG is continuing to explore the coronavirus government support initiatives and also has a mandate to explore other options including a refinancing for the Three Hills Capital-backed brand. Meanwhile, it is believed a pre-pack sale of Le Pain Quotidien could be agreed later this week, with the business generating interest, including it is thought from owners of the brand in other international territories.
Insurance parties join forces: The Hiscox Action Group and the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) are forming an alliance to put pressure on insurance company Hiscox to pay out on its business interruption policies. The alliance will allow for the sharing of information, the pooling of resources and closer collaborations in the legal actions being brought against Hiscox. The two groups represent more than 500 Hiscox policyholders with total insurance cover of more than £50m. For many of the policyholders, access to these insurance funds is the difference between their businesses surviving and going under. NTIA’s members include bar, club and restaurant owners whose premises have been closed by the lock-down and who have closure insurance with Hiscox. They are represented by insurance broker NDML and Philip Kolvin QC, of Cornerstone Barristers, who said: “The Hiscox policies we are relying on clearly cover government closure due to the coronavirus. I hope very much these claims can be met soon, and in full, to avoid the need for litigation.” The Hiscox Action Group is a wide grouping of policyholders that have instructed Mishcon de Reya as legal counsel and had their legal action underwritten by Harbour, a litigation funder. Richard Leedham, the Mishcon de Raya partner leading the action, said: “I welcome this alliance with NTIA. HIscox has said it did not intend to cover what has happened. This is irrelevant. We are looking at what is in the contract. Hiscox has provided a very broad form of wording and its natural meaning would cover someone whose business was interrupted by the lock-down.”