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On Friday 17 July 2020, Justice Jagot granted orders sought by Philip Campbell-Wilson and Said Jahani of Grant Thornton in their capacity as administrators of Miniso Master Franchisee Pty Ltd (Administrators Appointed) (the Company) in relation to their personal liability position.
Scentre Group and Vicinity Centres opposed the application by the Administrators, both briefing counsel to make submissions as to why the extension ought not be granted.
The Miniso Group of companies is part of the global Miniso brand; a low-cost retailer and variety store chain that specialises in household and consumer goods including cosmetics, stationery, toys, kitchenware and essential hygiene goods pertaining to COVID-19. It is the franchisor entity and lessee of 31 stores in Australia as well as an online store. The Australian business runs a hybrid franchisee, corporate ownership and joint venture model.
Her Honour was persuaded by the submissions of the applicant that the best chance of maximising the return to creditors and to facilitate the continuation of the business was to afford the Administrators an extension of time to be relieved of personal liability. In granting the orders, Her Honour acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances that both retailers and commercial landlords face due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and adopted the consistently pragmatic approach adopted by Courts over recent months in line with the aims of Part 5.3A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).
The relevant order obtained was pursuant to section 447A(1) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (the Act) and section 90-15 of the Insolvency Practice Schedule (Corporations), being Schedule 2 to the Act (the IPSC), varying the operation of section 443B(2) the Act, such that the Administrators will not be personally liable for rent (and other payments under the leases) for the 31 stores of which the Company is lessee for a period of approximately a month. This effectively extends the 5 business day period normally afforded at the commencement of an administration process.
The extension of the period for the Administrators was granted by the Court in order to provide the Administrators time to properly undertake their investigations into the affairs of the Company with a view to either facilitating a sale or recapitalisation of the business, or to maximise the return to creditors as a whole.
Hamilton Locke advises the administrators of the Company.
The Hamilton Locke finance, restructuring and insolvency team have a broad range of top-tier experience acting for a variety of stakeholders in distressed scenarios. For more information or advice on insolvency, distressed debt and restructuring generally please contact Nick Edwards, Brit Ibanez and Zina Edwards.