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Business briefing: Green deal to save Arcadia hits late snag over closures

BILLIONAIRE Sir Philip Green’s rescue deal for his Arcadia empire is in the balance after creditors failed to back a final decision on restructuring plans.

A vote on the future of the retail group, which owns Topshop and Miss Selfridge, was due last night but has been shelved for another week to allow further talks with landlords.

Sir Philip needed their backing to support seven separate company voluntary arrangements (CVAs), which will result in dozens of store closures and rent reductions.

The setback comes despite the tycoon agreeing to demands from regulators to inject an extra £25million into Arcadia’s pension fund.

His pledge is on top of a promise by the Green family and Arcadia to put more than £300million into the pension over three years.

The Pensions Regulator previously told him he needed to top up his contribution if it was to support a CVA. Lady Green (pictured with Sir Philip), the group’s ultimate owner, signed off the extra cash. The regulator, which earlier yesterday backed the deal, said: ‘We consider the updated CVA proposals provide better protection for scheme members.’

If the CVA package is ultimately approved next Wednesday, almost 50 stores will close and rents on nearly 200 shops will be cut.

NEIL WOODFORD says he is ‘extremely sorry’ for suspending trades in his largest fund. The stockpicker stopped money going in or out of his Woodford Equity Income Fund on Tuesday after increasing numbers of investors asked for their money back. The move was ‘necessary to protect investors’ interests’, he said. Around £560million had been withdrawn from the fund over the past four weeks. ‘I am extremely sorry that we’ve had to take this decision, we will keep our investors informed. We will use this time to reposition the fund,’ he said.

Women go to court over rise in pension age

‘Unfair deal’: Anne Taylor (left) and Patsy Franklin from the BackTo60 group outside the Royal Courts of Justice as the landmark legal case begins PICTURE: PA

CAMPAIGNERS packed the High Court as a legal bid began to force the government to pay millions of women money they lost out on because of increases in their state pension age.

The BackTo60 group is claiming discrimination after the threshold — which was 60 until 2010 — increased to 65, the same as for men. The changes were meant to ensure equality but did ‘the reverse’ as women had little warning of the change, placing them at a ‘disadvantage’, the court heard.

The group also argued women born after 1950 were victims of age discrimination. Nearly 4million women are affected. The hearing continues today before a judgment is given later.

Card Factory posts a bumper start to year

A RECORD Valentine’s and Mother’s Day has helped Card Factory boost sales. The group, which has 979 stores in the UK and Ireland, said sales in the three months to April 30 rose 6.4 per cent. Boss Karen Hubbard hailed a positive start to the year, despite ‘challenging consumer sentiment and negative footfall on the high street’. She added: ‘We have seen a good customer reaction to our seasonal card ranges over the quarter, with yet again record card sales in volumes and value for both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.’

BUSINESS BITES

■ THE ban on plastic recycling being shipped to South East Asian countries has hit waste management company Biffa, with pre-tax profits falling 44 per cent to £21.5million for the year to March 29.

■ AMNESTY International warned of up to 95 redundancies as it tries to tackle a ‘serious’ budget deficit. The human rights group said funding for its international secretariat dropped, adding: ‘This is a painful decision.’

■ ONE in five households (4.8million) in England have trouble paying rents or mortgages, a study by the Affordable Housing Commission found. Spending more than a third of income on the cost of housing can lead to debt, it said.