Barclays near to Imry sale

The property industry is watching closely to see whether Barclays Bank can finally rid itself of an unwanted child, the property company Imry Holdings.

Barclays took the company over when it collapsed in 1992 and has been negotiating for several months to dispose of it. Imry owns the Shires shopping centre in Leicester as well as a large site awaiting development in the centre of Southampton. It now has only one bidder, the Dutch property fund Rodamco, following the withdrawal of the publicly quoted Chelsfield last week.

Rodamco is believed to have offered just under pounds 450m gross, while Chelsfield's offer was "some tens of millions" below that, industry insiders say. Elliott Bernerd, chairman of Chelsfield, said at the time of the pull-out that his group "was not prepared to chase values beyond those with which we were comfortable on a long-term basis".

The central issue is the cost of developing the Southampton site, which has planning permission for one of the largest retail centres in Europe. The estimated cost is pounds 300m, but it seems that Chelsfield and other bidders, including British Land, are taking a more pessimistic view than Rodamco.

Imry is the only non-financial company owned by Barclays and has been a running source of embarrassment. The bank funded a highly geared buyout at the peak of the boom, in 1989 and had to convert its debt to equity - in effect taking ownership - when Imry collapsed three years later. It also wrote off pounds 190m of debt.

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