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WH Smith warns of possible 2022 covenant test breach, posts half-year loss

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FILE PHOTO: A company logo is pictured outside a branch of WH Smith in Manchester, northern England.
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(Reuters) - UK's WH Smith Plc on Wednesday warned of the possible risk of breaching its covenant tests in 2022 after it slumped to a first-half loss and launched a potential 325 million-pound ($450 million) bonds offering as the retailer navigates the COVID-19 crisis.

The company, which sells everything from books and sandwiches to Bluetooth headphones, said in a statement under a severe but plausible scenario, "it was likely that the group would not meet the conditions of the August 2022 covenant tests."

"If this situation prevailed, the group would engage its

lending banks in advance of this date to secure a further covenant amendment," it added.

The severe but plausible scenario replicates the group's forecast performance in the financial year ending Aug. 31, 2021 by applying the same cash flows to the next financial year, while excluding non-recurring restructuring costs incurred and government support received.

The company's network of airport, train station and workplace kiosks has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis forced the 200-year-old company, founded as a news vendor in London, to announce up to 1,500 job cuts last year.

Besides the offering of guaranteed senior unsecured convertible bonds due 2026, the company said it had agreed to new bank financing arrangements including a revised revolving credit facility of 250 million pounds, raised from 200 million pounds, with an extended maturity to 2025 from 2023.

WH Smith said it would use funds from the offering and the financing arrangements to open new travel stores across all territories, particularly North America.

WH Smith said it expects annual outturn to be modestly ahead of current expectations, adding it was continuing to see encouraging signs of recovery in North America.

It reported headline group loss before tax of 17 million pounds for the six months ending Feb. 28, compared with a profit of 80 million pounds a year earlier.

Shares of the FTSE-250 member have jumped nearly 25% so far in 2021.

($1 = 0.7185 pounds)

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli, Alexandra Hudson)