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U.S. Bankruptcy Court releases World Imports containers

Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, August 6, 2013

PHILADELPHIA - A U.S. Bankruptcy Court here granted motion last month to release goods of World Imports that were being held by OEC Group, a logistics services provider.
     Court documents said OEC was in possession of World Imports landed goods worth about $450,000 and goods in transit worth about $1.4 million. Freight charges due on the landed goods was about $120,000.
     World Imports officials said that release of the goods should help restore confidence to its dealers and sales representatives.
     Marc Luber, president, said that holding the containers affected a large part of its business. Nearly every container on the water or at port and freight work for direct container customers was affected, he said.
     "This is obviously very important to us to get some momentum back," said Marc Luber, president.
     Containers are shipped to World Imports facilities in Walls, Miss., Philadelphia and Chicago.
     Asserting a maritime lien, OEC refused to release the goods unless the freight charges and about $1 million in pre-bankruptcy freight claims on other goods were paid. World Imports argued that the goods - which OEC took possession of before the filing - were never OEC's property and had been held in trust.
     World Imports also said it offered to pay freight charges on the landed goods.
     OEC provided non-vessel operating common carrier transportation services for World Imports by arranging for shipping of its goods to the U.S. directly to its warehouse and for World Imports carriers to pick up goods there, or by arranging shipment of goods.
     In court documents, World Imports said it has an outstanding balance on a line of credit with PNC Bank for about $11.1 million and about $3.6 million in unsecured trade payables. World Imports hopes to preserve its business as a going concern and has said that it is worth more than the PNC debt and all other secured debt.
     The full-line supplier had argued that it needed the OEC goods to fill in portions of sets that were currently out of stock and that loss of sales from the goods would pose a risk to its restructuring.
     World Imports filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July. The filing was due to several factors, including a large antidumping tariff, an unsuccessful new software system and write downs of bad debt, among other items.
     Company officials said earlier that World Imports plans to unveil a 2014 catalog later this month, among other efforts to grow its business.
     The company was founded in 1986 by Stan and Sandra Luber. Its companies, World Imports, WI South and WI Chicago's assets as of June 30 totaled about $3 million plus accounts receivable of $9.2 million and total inventory of about $8.8 million, bankruptcy court documents said.

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