Receivers want NOVA to be back offering classes soon

Failed English conversation school chain NOVA Corp. could be back in operation within a month with the support of companies willing to help it rebuild, its receivers said.

Court-appointed receivers for NOVA, Toshiaki Higashibata and Noriaki Takahashi, said they plan to start looking for backers for the failed chain, with current candidates including retail giants Marui Co. and Aeon Co. and the IT sectors’ Yahoo and Rakuten, with other companies also having put their names forward.

Whether NOVA can actually be rehabilitated remains another matter, as it is mired in debts of tens of billions of yen, including about 4 billion yen in unpaid wages to teachers and other staff.

Ousted NOVA president Nozomu Sahashi’s fate also remains unclear. “We’ll look at the case first before deciding what legal measures to take,” one of the receivers said.

NOVA collected over 40 billion yen from students as advance payments for English language conversation classes, more than it had gathered at the end of March. It owes some 4 billion yen in unpaid wages.

Receivers said they want to maintain NOVA’s nationwide network, and are willing to make it a condition that any company stepping in to help the chain allow students who paid the failed chain for lessons to be able to receive them.

NOVA’s roughly 4,900 employees have been told to wait and the chain’s schools have all been suspended from operating. The tens of billions of yen in debt that NOVA accumulated has made selection of a backer to save it essential, but if a rescue plan can’t be worked out, NOVA will have to file for bankruptcy.

NOVA’s student numbers have plummeted from about 418,000 at the end of March to around 300,000. During the same time, it has gone from 925 schools to 669. The 300,000-plus students, staff and teachers are all NOVA creditors and receivers’ negotiations with them are expected to be prickly.