High Noon

AF Blakemore is embroiled in a row with administrators at collapsed independent retailer High Noon Stores over the proceeds of a £1.25m sale of two forecourts it claimed to own - despite never paying for them, an administrator’s report has revealed.

Blakemore negotiated a deal to buy sites at Symonds Yat and Laugharne in December 2016 from the stricken group, which would have ‘provided an injection of further funds’.

But a report published by joint administrator Smith & Williamson LLP revealed the transaction was void as monies never materialised and the deal undervalued the properties.

The Spar wholesaler handed the sites back to the forecourt operator on the day of an impending High Court case on 16 February, called to settle a row over their ownership, despite claiming funds were transferred.

The dropped application resulted in Blakemore being ordered to pay £28,000 in costs.

A £1.25m sale of Symonds Yat to Motor Fuel Group and a separate deal for Laugharne have since been held up after Blakemore maintained it was entitled to the proceeds from the sales.

“Consequently we [Smith & Williamson] strongly believe that the sale proceeds ultimately belong to the company [High Noon] and that the prospects that the court will find in favour of the company and the administrators are very good,” the report reads.

Smith & Williamson said settlement offers to push through the deals and avoid further court costs had received no response from Blakemore.

Blakemore said it could not comment on an ‘ongoing’ legal matter.

The report also revealed Blakemore paid £376,000 to High Noon in November 2016 to help pay for wages and fuel after it was forced to temporarily close some of its forecourts due to ‘cashflow issues’.

A 1.06% increase in staff salaries at its head office, pricing errors, and a major fuel leak at one of its sites in December 2015 had part-resulted in High Noon recording a net loss of £397,000 over a six-month period to 31 August 2016.

The company had operated 15 convenience stores and forecourts across South Wales, but fell into administration at the end of 2016.

The report showed High Noon owed a maximum of £60,000 in staff wages, and a further £3.2m to unsecured creditors.

Around £666,000 of a £772,000 HSBC loan has been paid back to date.

The report also shows Smith & Williamson, Clyde & Co, and Christie & Co have so far spent 473 hours dealing with the administration, which is estimated to cost £330,000. They are yet to be paid.