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By | Paul Kunert 19th August 2013 07:29

Comet brand yanked from its grave: Tycoon vows to open EIGHTY new stores

Entrepreneur: Don't let your savings waste away in a bank, invest in me!

Electronics retail entrepreneur Clive Coombes is trying to revive the Comet brand name by launching 80 stores over the next two years - and is looking for foolhardy brave investors to support him.

In his blog, written in the third person, Coombes, who tried but failed to buy Comet from administrator Deloitte, revealed he has hatched another plan to bring the old high-street name back from the grave.

"He [Coombes] decided to merge two companies under his control, Meridian Wholesale Ltd and Comet Electrical Distributors Ltd, re-brand them and so Meridian Comet was born," said Coombes.

From this autumn, eight to ten new Meridian Comet shops will be opened every three months for two years in England's south, south-west and the Midlands.

Coombes hopes to fund the venture "by way of share purchase thereby creating a potential opportunity to receive a return that no individual with limited funds could ever achieve".

"The return, we as individuals, are currently getting on our money we have in our bank or building society accounts is negligible at today's interest rates," he said.

If the firm reaches the launch goal it will float on AIM and give investors an "immediate return". Even so, it will take a steady hand to sink money into a retail venture in the current economic climate: numerous famous High Street brands have bitten the dust.

Coombes said that with Comet's crash, there is a "massive opportunity" to fill a "void" in the market for white goods and multimedia kit - a sector apparently valued at £3.8bn a year - although Dixons Retail claims to have a done a pretty good job there.

Comet crashed spectacularly last November, a year after Op Capita, a holding company owned by Hailey Acquisitions (HA), paid Kesa Electricals £2 to buy Comet and in return received a £50m dowry to fund working capital.

But a combination of costly overheads and suppliers' reluctance to trade with Comet caused its demise, leaving creditors seriously out of pocket including a near-£50m bill for UK taxpayers.

According to a progress report lodged at Companies House in June by Deloitte, secured creditors HA made £54m from the sale of stock and equipment.

And to add insult to injury, Deloitte confirmed in the report it was in discussions with HA about the "possible sale to [HA] of the company's accumulated tax losses". This equates to £27m of taxable losses that HA could then use to offset other tax payments.

Unsecured creditors, HMRC, suppliers and landlords are owed some £233m but are expected to receive just 1 pence in the pound.

Deloitte said an investigation into the directors' conduct was undertaken and a confidential report was sent to the Insolvency Service back in April.

The government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also probing the administration of Comet but is doing so behind closed doors and will not publish its findings.

Deloitte said Comet will be liquidated on 1 November. ®

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