The UK’s most influential commercial property organisation is wading into a battle over the future of the Japanese-owned car park operator NCP.
Sky News understands that the British Property Federation (BPF) has begun convening calls for NCP landlords next week as they face demands to write off substantial rent arrears.
A group of landlords is said to be lining up AlixPartners and the law firm Hogan Lovells to advise them in a bid to overturn NCP’s proposals.
The plans have been tabled by the car park operator using a contentious new legal structure that is also being deployed by Virgin Active, the gyms operator.
Property-owners, hammered by a wave of insolvency mechanisms in the retail and hospitality sectors, are aghast at the so-called Part 26A process, which – if approved by a court – would force them into accepting the new rent terms even if they oppose them.
NCP, which trades from more than 500 sites across the UK, has been owned by Park24, a listed Japanese company, and the Development Bank of Japan, since 2017.
The majority owner has pledged a £120m capital injection over the next two years, and the formal restructuring plan will be launched if sufficient support is secured from landlords next week.
Melanie Leech, the BPF chief executive, said this weekend: “This Restructuring Plan, if approved, will signal to businesses that they can use this new business rescue procedure to simply walk away from debt owed to property-owners.
“While the Covid-19 crisis has brought genuine hardship to businesses up and down the country, it has also been cynically used as an excuse to shift onto property owners the cost of years of failings and underinvestment.
“This Restructuring Plan is another example of this transfer of wealth from property owners, who represent local authorities and millions of pensioners and savers invested in commercial property, to a business’ shareholders.”
NCP has warned that it is likely to collapse unless the restructuring is implemented.
Neither NCP, nor Deloitte, which is advising the company, could be reached for comment.