A Claire's store front.

Claire’s Stores Inc. on Monday filed its long-awaited Chapter 11 petition for bankruptcy court protection to restructure its balance sheet.

Several credit ratings agencies had the company on their watch lists for the past year because of its high debt load.

Claire’s filed its voluntary petition in a Delaware bankruptcy court. The company said its restructuring efforts are “supported by holders of approximately 72 percent of the company’s First Lien Debt, 8 percent of its Second Lien Notes and 83 percent of its Unsecured Notes.” The teen and tween accessories chain also said it is current on payments to its trade vendors and has ample liquidity to maintain its partnerships with vendors, “including by making timely payments on customary trade terms.”

The chain emphasized that the filing is to effect a balance sheet restructuring and is not in any way operational in nature, adding that “Claire’s is growing, not shrinking, its business. The company expects its concessions business to grow by more than 4,000 stores in 2018.”

The company had considered an initial public offering, but pulled its IPO plan in January 2017.

Ron Marshall, Claire’s chief executive officer, said, “We will complete this process as a healthier, more profitable company, which will position us to be an even stronger business partner for our suppliers, concessions partners and franchisees.”

As part of its bankruptcy proceedings, Claire’s has a debtor-in-possession facility of $135 million in place, including an asset-based lending facility and a term loan from Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., subject to bankruptcy court approval.

Claire’s said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy proceedings in September, with over $150 million of liquidity and a reduction of its overall indebtedness by about $1.9 billion. It has secured commitments of $575 million in new capital, which includes “financing commitments for a new $75 million asset-based lending facility, a new $250 million first lien term loan, and $250 million as a preferred equity investment.”

Claire’s is owned by Apollo Management, which acquired the business in May 2007 in a $3.1 billion leveraged buyout. The core brand is Claire’s, but the retailer also operates Icing Concept, which targets an older consumer ages 18 to 35.

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