By Angelos Anastasiou
The Jumbo store in Limassol has been left without power since Thursday night due to a dispute between the Electricity Authority and the Bank of Cyprus, which acts as administrator of the bankrupt Orphanides retail chain.
Jumbo Limassol, housed in the premises of a former Orphanides supermarket, leased from the Bank of Cyprus after the retailer went under three years ago, has been operating the store since September 2014.
But unpaid electricity bills from the Orphanides era have been reported at €800,000, and the EAC would not make the transfer to the new lease until the debt was repaid.
So Jumbo opened the new store without actually having registered with the power company as the new operator of the premises, meaning the EAC continued to claim electricity bills from the Bank of Cyprus, which the lender then passed on to Jumbo.
“For various reasons, Jumbo could not be our client [when the Limassol store opened],” EAC spokesman Tasos Gregoriou told the Cyprus Mail.
“Our client continues to be Orphanides Supermarkets – now under liquidation.”
Negotiations between the EAC and the bank-appointed administrator of the failed retailer aimed at settling the outstanding electricity bills, and it has been reported that some €150,000 of the debt has been serviced.
But a recent breakdown in talks has resulted in the EAC taking punitive measures.
“This matter is being handled at the highest level – the board itself has been engaged,” Gregoriou said.
“The latest development reflects non-responsiveness by the administrator in the ongoing negotiations.”
The Jumbo Limassol building has become a reference point for the city, with its giant, colourful sign visible from the Kato Polemidhia round-about on the Nicosia-Limassol motorway.
According to press reports, the Limassol store’s management has filed a complaint with the police regarding the incident, as the unannounced – Jumbo was never informed, or warned, that such a development may be imminent – power cut could have risked disruptions in the hugely successful retailer’s operation.
“We are being victimised for a dispute between the bank and the EAC,” said Jumbo spokesman Polis Economides.
“We are a major EAC customer all over Cyprus, we have been paying our electricity bill for a year and a half, and they suddenly cut our power.”
But the store has been able to continue operations by using a power generator.
“This is certainly not a long-term solution – it’s not even viable over the weekend,” Economides said.
“The issue has to be resolved today.”
Meanwhile, Jumbo has asked that the premises’ electricity bill be transferred to its name, irrespective of the outstanding debt, but it seems unlikely that the EAC would accept such an arrangement.