By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN (Reuters) - HMV-owner Hilco bought Ireland's largest film and computer game rental retailer Xtra-Vision on Tuesday, potentially saving close to 1,000 jobs after the firm sought protection from its creditors in April.
Restructuring specialist Hilco, which rescued Britain's most high-profile entertainment retailer HMV earlier this year, said it hoped it would be able to keep Xtra-vision's remaining 132 stores open following negotiations with landlords.
Hilco did not say how much it paid Xtra-Vision's court-appointed receivers Ernst & Young, who closed 20 of the firm's stores last month but found the majority of its outlets to be profitable.
Retailers in Ireland saw costs soar during a property boom that burst spectacularly in 2008, sparking a financial crisis that pushed Ireland into an EU/IMF bailout and left well-known names like Xtra-Vision saddled with high rents and collapsed demand.
While Ireland has avoided returning to recession like much of the euro zone, its mild economic growth is driven by exports, with consumer spending likely to contract again this year and unemployment still among the highest in Europe at 13.7 percent.
Hilco, which will also re-open four of HMV's 16 Irish stores which closed their doors in January, appointed Gerry Butler, a former executive of British DVD and game rental chain Blockbuster, as chief executive of the new business.
Hilco has been involved in many high-profile UK retail restructurings, including at Habitat, Woolworths and Borders. Last year it was also brought in to clear stock and close stores at Clinton Cards and JJB Sports.
"Xtra-vision is a very strong brand in the Irish market and we are happy to add it to our fast-growing entertainment division. It is a good fit alongside HMV which we now operate in the UK, Ireland and Canada," Hilco CEO Paul McGowan said in a statement.
(Editing by David Holmes)