NEW YORK — Barneys Inc., which has been the focus of slow-payment complaints, firmed up its cash position last week with a $40 million private placement.

Of the $40 million, $10 million will be used to reduce Barneys’ bank debt and the rest will be available for general corporate purposes.

The financing was arranged by Chemical Securities Inc., the investment banking arm of Chemical Bank. Chemical is the lead bank on Barneys’ working capital loan.

Funds were raised through the sale to a group of insurance companies of Barneys unsecured senior notes paying annual interest of 8.32 percent and maturing June 15, 2000. The notes have been rated investment grade by the insurance industry rating authorities.

An earlier plan for a $43 million private placement secured by lease payments by Barneys on its Madison Avenue store has been abandoned. The proceeds would have gone to the landlord, an entity owned by Isetan Co. Ltd., Barneys’ Japanese partner, and the Pressman family. That plan was designed to cash out some of the equity in the building, but the landlord decided not to withdraw the equity.

Last December, there was a flurry of reports that Barneys was running late in paying trade bills. At the time, Barneys insisted that it was doing well financially, and that the slow payments resulted from communications problems. Since then, vendors and factors report, there has been an improvement in the payment and information flow.

The most recent figures disclosed by the privately owned Barneys showed a profit of $5.9 million in the five months ended Jan. 3, on sales of $150.5 million.

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