TWO major shopping centres in the North-East could be forced to shut for a 'period of time' if their owners fall into administration.

The owners of Intu Metrocentre and Intu Eldon Square, Intu Properties has warned that malls across the UK could have to close if it calls in administrators.

Intu Metrocentre, which is already facing the loss of Debenhams in the Red Mall, could be among those in our region to temporarily shut down.

The Northern Echo: Debenhams in Metrocentre has not reopened Picture: GOOGLEDebenhams in Metrocentre has not reopened Picture: GOOGLE

The shopping centre, which at one point was Europe's largest, has more than 200 restaurants and retail businesses currently using the site.

But today, Intu confirmed it has put KPMG on stand-by and is negotiating details with lenders as it hopes to secure an extension to a deadline on Friday.

Intu is hoping to arrange a so-called standstill agreement on terms of up to 18 months, but said that at this stage it is unlikely to be more than 15 months.

It warned that if it cannot reach an agreement and is placed in administration, without critical upfront funding from its lenders "there is a risk that centres may have to close for a period".

The Northern Echo:

It emerged earlier this month that KPMG had been appointed to make contingency plans for Intu's administration.

Intu is thrashing out details of a possible agreement with lenders before June 26, when covenant tests are due on its lending deals.

Given the impact of the coronavirus crisis on shopping centres, which were forced to close for nearly three months amid the lockdown, the business is likely to fail these covenant tests.

It is also due for updated valuations of its shopping centres this month, which could see it breach lending agreements, given woes in the sector.

Intu said talks are focusing on the length of a possible standstill, how much creditors could share in any future upside in shopping centre valuations, as well as changes to how shopping centres are funded to allow them to pay for staff, such as security and health and safety.

It said: "Some centres have reduced rent collections as a result of Covid-19 and cash trapped under their financing arrangements which restrict their ability to pay for support, such as shopping centre staff, from other entities in the Intu group."

If this cannot be secured, then malls may be forced to shut, it warned.

Intu said: "In the event that Intu Properties plc is unable to reach a standstill, it is likely it and certain other central entities will fall into administration.

"In this situation, all property companies would be required to pre-fund the administrator to provide central services to the shopping centres.

"If the administrator is not pre-funded then there is a risk that centres may have to close for a period."