Several hundred job in the province are at risk as struggling DIY and home retailer Homebase confirmed plans to close up to 40 istores around the UK.
The firm, which has nine stores in the Northern Ireland, has posted several warnings in recent months and now joins a host of other retailers to announce closures.
Several private equity firms are understood to be circling the business as Australian owner Wesfarmer plots an escape from its ill-fated £340 million takeover.
Hilco, Endless and Lion Capital are among the groups eyeing a potential bid, with bargain retailer B&M also weighing an approach, sources have told the Press Association.
It is unclear at this stage whether any bid would be for the entirety of the business, part of it, or, in B&M’s case, a chunk of Homebase’s store estate.
Wesfarmers appears eager to offload the troubled retailer after their 2016 takeover turned sour when customers failed to respond to a sweeping overhaul.
It added to the misery surrounding the deal, with Wesfarmers revealing in February that it had embarked on a business review of Homebase. The move could lead to 2,000 job losses and 40 store closures across the UK and Ireland.
Such have been the woes of the UK business that it announced in early 2018 that half-year pre-tax losses had deepened to £97m, sinking from a £28m loss the year before.
The group blamed the deterioration on the “rapid re-positioning” of Homebase and tough trading conditions in the UK.
Homebase operates from 250 stores and employs 12,000 people in total in the UK.