Ascot Holdings continues rehabilitation with pounds 57m disposals

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The Independent Online
ASCOT Holdings, previously Control Securities, has sold Belhaven Brewery and a business park in Manchester for pounds 57m, writes Robert Cole.

John Kerslake, finance director, said yesterday's disposals formed the second phase of the company's rehabilitation plan. 'The first was to get support from the bankers. The disposals increase our financial headroom. Now we must try to get value out of running the business.'

Nazmu Virani, Ascot's former chairman, is awaiting trial for his involvement in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International scandal. Ascot, hit hard by falling property prices and its association with Mr Virani, reached a debt-stabilising agreement with its bank in June.

Even after the disposals Ascot has bank debt of pounds 75m and another pounds 75m of bondholder debt. Its net asset base, after pounds 250m of property writedowns, is negligible.

The Belhaven Bewery and 61 pubs in Scotland have been sold to management for a total of pounds 31m. The venture capitalist CVC Capital Partners, an offshoot of Citibank in the US, provided some of the finance. Ascot is getting pounds 23.5m in cash and the buyout team assumes another pounds 8m of debt.

Stuart Ross, Belhaven's managing director, led the buyout. Based in Dunbar, the company was founded in 1719 and employs 200. Its best known product is its 80/- heavy ale.

Mr Ross said: 'The return of Scotland's leading independent brewery to Scottish ownership is excellent news, particularly when brewery takeovers, mergers and acquisitions have resulted in the disappearance of some of the finest names in British breweries and beer, with others passing into overseas control.'

The new owners have raised an additional pounds 5m to fund refinancing costs and provide scope for investment in the business. Ascot has retained a 15 per cent stake in the newly independent operation.

In the second of yesterday's deals Ascot sold Heywood Business Park to Burford Holdings, the small property investment group, for pounds 25m.

The 1.4 million sq ft site is eight miles north of Manchester beside the M62 and M66 motorways and used as a distribution centre for Woolworths, Littlewoods and Rumbelows. The plot is 150 acres but 40 remain undeveloped.

Ascot's continuing business is the operation of 500 Belhaven pubs in England and 20 hotels here and in Spain. Shares, which traded at 70p in 1989, rose 0.25p to 5.5p yesterday.

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