House of Fraser's website is down as administration rumours swirl

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However, a rescue deal by a well-capitalised business like Sports Direct will at least preserve a significant number of jobs at HoF. Even within a struggling industry, the likes of House of Fraser look like relics of the Edwardian era, about as relevant to the 21st century as typewriters and video players.

In a massive blow to its 17500 staff, House of Fraser is to appoint administrators after negotiations with its investors and creditors failed to conclude in a "solvent solution", according to reports.

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct will attempt to keep as many House of Fraser stores open as possible following a £90 million rescue of the ailing retailer.

It said it had put questions to House of Fraser earlier this week in relation to its future but has not yet received a response.

Mid-market retailers like House of Fraser have been hit particularly hard, with rivals Debenhams Plc and Marks & Spencer Group Plc shrinking store space as their online businesses have been slow to take off.

The department store chain, which has stores in Shrewsbury and Telford, went into administration this morning and is understood to have been bought as part of a so- called "pre-pack" deal.

"The directors of the group's operating companies, House of Fraser (Stores) Limited, House of Fraser Limited and James Beattie Limited (the "Operating Companies"), have therefore resolved to seek the appointment of administrators".

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EY, which is expected to be appointed administrator on Friday, will continue discussions with interested parties in the hope of reaching a deal "shortly after their appointment".

This precipitated a three-way tussle between retail billionaires Ashley and Philip Day as well as a proposal by Alteri Investors, with Ashley ultimately emerging on top.

Though the deal salvages at least some of House of Fraser's stores, the squeeze on United Kingdom retailers is set to continue as merchants wrestle with a range of pressures, including recent property tax increases for many.

HoF chief executive Alex Williamson said: "We are hopeful that the current negotiations will shortly be concluded".

House of Fraser was plunged into crisis last week after C.banner, the Chinese owner of Hamleys, pulled its investment into the troubled retail chain.

Frank Slevin, chairman of House of Fraser, said: "This has been an extraordinarily challenging six months in which the business has delivered so many critical elements of the turnaround plan".

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