Coach holidays firm ‘in talks to secure a buyer’

Wigan-based coach holidays business Shearings is in talks with various bodies in a bid to avoid administration, according to reports.

Sky News reported that the owner of parent company Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), Texas-based private equity firm Lone Star Funds, is in advanced talks with several parties in a bid to save the group’s 2,600 staff from redundancy.

Most of the workforce has already been furloughed.

SLG then issued a statement that said: “The travel industry has been severely affected by the impact of COVID-19 and the inability to operate any holidays on government instruction.

“Specialist Leisure Group is actively in dialogue with its stakeholders, advisors and the Government regarding its options, which include the sourcing of the necessary financial support to enable the company to weather the storm of COVID-19.”

The Sky News report claims SLG and Lone Star are working with business adviser PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in a bid to secure a buyer.

In the event of the owner being unable to secure a solvent sale, PwC would be likely to handle any insolvency process.

The accountancy giant could also oversee a pre-pack administration which would see parts of the business sold to another owner, should an outright buyer not come forward.

Just over a year ago, last March, reports claimed the group’s owner was considering a sale for the business which was set up in 1919 in Oldham by Herbert Shearing.

Sky said a source told them that there had been several “credible” expressions of interest in acquiring SLG.

The business was also considering resorting to the emergency loan schemes created by the Government since lockdown following the coronavirus pandemic to ease financial pressures on its operations.

Shearings serves more than 170 destinations in the UK, Europe and further afield.

SLG also owns UKBreakaways.com, which operates self-driving tours, and Sportingbreaks.com, which was due to launch last year as a hub for organised trips to events including the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, and Wimbledon.

In Scotland, the company trades under the name Caledonian Travel, another coach holiday operator.

Lone Star acquired the group, through a wider portfolio of assets, in 2015.

A spokeswoman for Lone Star Funds declined to comment, said Sky News.

According to city sources last year Lone Star had held talks with bankers including DC Advisory about selling Shearings either later in 2019 or in 2020.

One report claimed the company had hired management consultancy CIL to ‘review business strategy’.

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