The debt reflects the extent to which [DATA ABL:Abil’s] failure in August has rippled across corporate South Africa, knocking credit ratings, investor confidence and even hurting small suppliers such as florists and panel beaters.
(READ MORE: African Bank’s Ellerines applies for business rescue)
Details of Ellerine’s creditors were included in a 117-page “business rescue” restructuring plan, a form of temporary protection from creditors the company was forced to take after losing funding from Abil.
The restructuring plan shows Ellerine owes 241 million rand to FirstRand, 150 million to Standard Bank and 100 million each to Investec and Barclays Africa, a total of 591 million rand ($53 million).
Overall, the furniture company that has nearly 900 stores and employs 8,000 people owes almost 1.3 billion rand ($117 million) and is likely to be wound down.
According to the documents, FirstRand itself has submitted a smaller claim of 199.2 million rand, while Investec says it is owed 120.6 million, more than the 100 million in the plan.
An Investec spokeswoman said the bank’s 100 million rand exposure, as stipulated by Ellerine, was “guaranteed” by Abil.
A FirstRand spokeswoman said its exposure was secured by “assets financed and intergroup guarantees”.
Standard Bank and Barclays Africa declined to comment.
Founded in 1969, Ellerine has six chains selling furniture and home appliances across South Africa.
It also does business in Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Zambia and Swaziland. Abil bought Ellerine in 2008 in an ultimately disastrous attempt to sell furniture on credit.
The rescue plan lists hundreds of creditors hit by exposure to Ellerine. Aside from the four banks, most are smaller firms from print shops to grocery stores to gardeners.
It owes 48,000 rand to South Africa’s largest cinema chain and more than 700,000 rand to the state broadcaster.
“The scale and complexity of the business rescue is unprecedented in the history of South Africa,” said Leslie Matuson and Jayant Pema, the administrators leading the Ellerine restructuring.
Out of its nearly 900 stores, Ellerine plans to close 388 this month and 302 next month. It is in advanced talks to sell two of its brands to other furniture retailers. All remaining stores may need to be closed by January.
Creditors are due to vote on the business rescue plan on Monday and a rejection of the restructuring would likely lead to Ellerine being placed into liquidation.
Abil itself was rescued by South Africa’s central bank after it was hit by a flood of bad debts from its core market of low-income borrowers failing to repay loans.
The bank is being restructured by a government-appointed outside supervisor who has said he aims to relist it on the Johannesburg stock exchange by early next year.
The central bank has also launched an investigation into Abil to determine whether its former management engaged in fraud or acted negligently.