Furniture-to-fashion retailer Laura Ashley Holdings is walking back its proposal to open a regional headquarters in Asia, and plans to sell the property to pay off debt.

It has agreed to sell the building — which spans 98,000sqft and rises eight floors high — for 54.5 million Singapore dollars (£31 million).

"While expansion into the Asian market continues to be a priority, the retail environment has changed and the board believes this is an appropriate time to dispose of the property in Singapore, the retailer said in a statement today (Aug. 22).

Laura Ashley paid 66 million Singapore dollars to buy the building back in 2015, saying back then that "in order to take advantage of the opportunities in Asia — in particular China and India — the company needs to establish a strong regional commercial and operational presence."

Three years on, it has decided to deleverage instead, saying the sale will enable it to repay bank borrowings on the property once the sale — subject to shareholder approval given its size — completes in November this year.

The planned HQ's decline in value — in Singaporean dollars — means Laura Ashley booked a £4.7 million impairment charge on the asset in just-filed numbers for 2017–18, pushing it to a net loss (see related).

At June 30, Laura Ashley had long term borrowings of £18.8 million (2017: £20.3m) and net debt of £11.4 million.

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