Debenham's gave a retail update this morning, its sales are down 0.9% although it says it is gaining market share (its competitors are M&S, Next and John Lewis). Its debt burden, built by the financial wizardy of Private Equity ownership, is £994 million, down nearly £200 million from last year. The current management team are up for a near £50 million windfall between them from the re-float of the company after the Private Equity ownership.
But to do this it has had to cut its dividend to 0.5 pence per share (still not too bad with the shares now at 33p, less useful if you had bought them when it floated at £2 a share).
The story here though is of a company is pure stasis. It has too much debt to invest in any new products, stores or technology and it faces a tough consumer market in a receession. Yet good management may see it through, but this won't be the driver of the UK's way out of a recession.
It is a fragile company despite its size and history and as such it reflects much of the UK retail market. The share prices of this industry are under-pressure and it looks like it will stay that way with results like this.