The company, which has 3,000 staff, admitted some of its 17 UK malls may have to close.
They include Manchester’s Trafford Centre, Lakeside Thurrock in Essex, Braehead, near Glasgow, the Metrocentre in Gateshead and the Merry Hill centre in Dudley.
Intu said it had lost more than £180million in rental fees during the coronavirus lockdown. Centres were partially closed and retailers including Boots and Philip Green’s Arcadia Group paid less rent.
It means Intu’s total debts are now £4.5billion – with retail experts saying the pandemic only compounded a plunge in sales caused by the switch from high street to internet shopping.
Consultants from KPMG, who had been put on standby days ago, were appointed as administrators after Intu failed to agree a rescue deal with lenders. Yesterday’s announcement came shortly after Intu shares were suspended on the Stock Exchange.
The administrators warned “there is a risk centres may have to close for a period” if they do not get £12million requested from creditors to complete a rescue mission.
Intu said: “Underlying group operating companies remain unaffected and all shopping centres are continuing to trade.”
Patrick O’Brien, UK retail research director at GlobalData, said: “A lot of people are linking this to Covid and retailers not paying their rent.
“But let’s be clear, Intu was in very big trouble before. It was very, very likely to have gone into administration this year regardless of Covid.
“Intu was suffering from a retail market which is only going one way in terms of footfall.”
The London-based company owns 14 British shopping centres directly and operates three joint-ventures, as well as having three malls in Spain.
In addition to its own staff, more than 100,000 people work in stores inside its centres and a further 30,000 are in the wider supply chain.