The suspense is still on around the debt of Vivarte, the big French retail group that owns André, Minelli, San Marina and other major shoe chains. A final decision is now expected in the next few days. Like before, it is contingent on 100 percent acceptance by the group's creditors to turn €2 billion worth of debt into shares.

According well-informed sources, creditors who are owned 95 percent of the company's longterm debt of around €2 billion have pledged so far to endorse the plan proposed by the management, which would see their debts transformed into shares or convertible bonds. A deadline for the approval of the plan by all the creditors was postponed from the end of June to July 14, but it has been again stretched for a few more days.

A total of 170 creditors hold claims against the highly leveraged company. As previously reported, twelve big ones agreed in principle last month to convert their debts into shares, which would give them full control over the company. They may want to sell them sooner or later, transferring some of the shares to the current management, led by Marc Lelandais. The other creditors would get convertible bonds.

The biggest shareholder, the Charterhouse fund, and a couple of other investors, Chequers and Sagard, have said that they would not oppose the refinancing plan. Charterhouse owns nearly 60 percent of the shares, and the two other two between 8 and 9 percent each. Georges Plassat, the former chief executive of Vivarte, and members of the former management, who together own a minority stake of around 18 percent in the company, are said to be opposed, as the value of their shares would be reduced to almost zero, but they cannot do much except to ask for some compensation. Plassat is now the chief executive of Carrefour.

This past Wednesday, Lelandais informed 180 representatives of Vivarte's personnel about the imminent change of control and the details of his business plan, which are being described as a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy proceedings for the group. No layoffs are planned.