Can a buyer be found for the listed former post office? Credit: archive

Signature’s Preston project still up in the air

Administrator Kroll Advisory is still deciding between selling the project part-built, or overseeing its completion – but a deal may be close for Signature’s Rainhill Hall hotel.

Progress reports have been provided to Companies House for all four Signature companies put into administration with Kroll in August 2022. While three of the assets are trading, the Preston hotel is of pressing concern, being halted before completion.

The listed former post office building in Market Street was lined up for one of Signature Group’s hotels, but the project stalled and the company responsible for delivering it placed into administration last year.

In an update filed with Companies House, Kroll said that outstanding matters include building control sign-off and the fire strategy, which the firm said “continue to hinder progress with the development”.

In any case, agents have been appointed to market the building and try to find a buyer. The agents have been instructed to prepare “teaser” materials and soft-market the scheme to entrepreneurs, private equity firms, corporate financiers and turnaround specialists.

No timeline was suggested, and market figures contacted by Place are yet to hear of marketing starting in earnest.

Signature had bought the freehold of the former post office building from Preston City Council in February 2017, announcing a £15m project featuring a wedding/events suite with capacity for 230 diners, a 7,000 sq ft rooftop terrace, and 65 guest bedrooms.

Kroll was appointed as administrator of Signature Living Preston Ltd, which also has the trading name Shankly Preston Hotel, in August 2022 by development finance provider Lyell Trading, holder of a floating charge over the company.

At the same time, Lyell called in administrators on Signature Eden and Rainhill Hall, while Henslow Trading, based at the same address as Lyell, called time on Signature Living Lifestyles.

Secured creditors may find some solace. Kroll noted that “at this stage, it is anticipated that there will be sufficient realisations to enable a distribution to the secured creditors by way of a fixed charge distribution”.

At the time of Kroll’s appointment, Lyell was owed £12m relating to the Preston scheme, and SW Construction (No.2) owed £4m. Unsecured creditors are owed a combined £6.8m and are likely to miss out.

Since its previous report, Kroll has picked apart a number of intercompany loans involving other Signature entities, listing 24 such debtors, accounting for a total £1.7m. Only eight of these businesses are currently active, and repayment is being pursued.

It was also noted that Kroll has filed a confidential report with the government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy regarding the conduct of Signature directors.

Update on other Signature businesses:

Loyola Hall (Rainhill Hall Hotel): Bids were invited in December, with six firm bids made in January, From these, a preferred bidder has been selected to take on the venue, which opened in 2020.

Signature Living Lifestyles: this vehicle was set up to operate the gym at Liverpool’s Shankly Hotel. Thev gym is being marketed for sale as part of the wider asset.

Signature Eden (Dixie Dean Hotel): Despite a poor Christmas trading period, the administrator is not considering closing the hotel while it finds a buyer. Kroll hopes to get potential buyers in to view and inspect the site this month.

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