Owner of Dutch mall takes on might of Li Ka-shing chain

A procuring centre proprietor within the small Dutch metropolis of Dordrecht is threatening to bankrupt AS Watson, the most important well being and sweetness merchandise retailer on the planet, over an unpaid €9,000 hire invoice.

Pieter van Loon, who owns round 30 retailers in Dordrecht, has launched a case in opposition to the European arm of AS Watson, which additionally owns Superdrug and posted revenues of greater than €10bn in 2019. The corporate is a key asset in Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s international enterprise empire.

Mr van Loon has launched court docket proceedings to have the corporate declared bankrupt on the idea that its subsidiary, fragrance store ICI Paris XL, has withheld hire funds for April from 155 Dutch landlords. The whole withheld from Mr van Loon is €9,474.72.

“I obtained a letter announcing they wouldn’t pay the hire any extra. That was it,” stated Mr van Loon, whose firm Tres Make investments collected 67 per cent of the full hire it was due for April. 

The episode is one among many battles taking part in out between industrial tenants and their landlords from Sydney to San Francisco, as the previous withhold funds whereas their retailers are pressured to shut due to coronavirus. 

Whereas different corporations, together with Dutch lingerie firm Hunkemöller, JD Sports activities’ subsidiary Perry Sport, and a lot of smaller retailers both paid in full or sought to barter with Mr van Loon, ICI Paris had not but supplied a compromise, he stated.

Court docket proceedings are unlikely to end in chapter for AS Watson, however Mr van Loon claims to be performing out of precept. “I stated, ‘in case you deal with me like this, you’ll get the identical response from me.’ That’s the explanation I’m going to court docket.” 

Lina Alblas-van den Burg, managing director of ICI Paris, confirmed receipt of a chapter discover from one of many firm’s landlords, however stated there was “no probability that he can be profitable beneath Dutch regulation”. 

“On the similar time, we do perceive his sentiment. Subsequently, we are going to meet him early subsequent week to be able to discover a widespread settlement,” she added. 

Tensions are excessive elsewhere in Europe too. Landlords within the UK obtained only a third of the hire on account of them on the quarter’s cost date in late March, and massive identify manufacturers akin to Adidas have been pilloried by politicians for trying to withhold cost. Adidas has now relented and supplied to pay. 

Throughout Europe, AS Watson has 8,000 shops. Mr van Loon’s tenant, ICI Paris, is a sub-brand with nearly 300 shops. The corporate sits inside Mr Li’s Hong Kong-headquartered port to telecom conglomerate CK Hutchison.

Mr Li is Hong Kong’s most celebrated tycoon. The 91-year-old is thought affectionately as Superman, and has amassed a fortune in extra of $20bn.

CK Hutchison has seen “double digit” gross sales progress in its UK, Germany, Netherlands, and Poland retail operations for the reason that outbreak of the pandemic, as residents replenish available sanitisers and cleansing merchandise.

“I don’t wish to play with a giant Asian large, however I’ve to make my assertion: this isn’t the way it works in Holland,” stated Mr van Loon. 

Further reporting by Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong. 

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