Chelsfield is latest to join Stanhope talks: Bernerd ally for Lipton in battle to fend off British Land's approach

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The Independent Online
ELLIOTT Bernerd's newly floated Chelsfield confirmed it was talking to Stanhope as an 'interested observer' in discussions about refinancing the property developer.

Mr Bernerd denied that Chelsfield was one of up to four parties known to be trying to put together a restructuring of Stanhope, which is struggling under the weight of pounds 130m of debt.

But he is understood to be helping his former colleague Stuart Lipton in the Stanhope chairman's fight to fend off an unwanted approach from rival British Land.

BL, headed by John Ritblat, recently bought a 29 per cent stake in Stanhope and has made no secret of its desire to acquire control of Stanhope's most valuable asset, the Broadgate office complex in the City of London.

Mr Bernerd's appearance in the increasingly convoluted negotiations surrounding Stanhope follows a successful partnership with Stuart Lipton during the 1980s when they built up Stockley, developer of the 400- acre business park near Heathrow.

Chelsfield said yesterday that it had shelved plans to float a residential portfolio in the US which it holds in joint venture with P&O as a Real Estate Investment Trust.

Mr Bernerd said the returns from selling individual properties in the US were more attractive than the yields available on REITs. But he confirmed that the goal of both partners was the disposal of the portfolio.

In its first results since gaining a stock market listing in December, Chelsfield announced a bounce back into the black with a pounds 3.2m profit, compared with an pounds 18m loss in 1992. Earnings per share were 4.1p, compared with a 26.6p loss, and as forecast there was no dividend.

At the time of its pounds 243m flotation, the company said its first payout would be a 2.4p dividend for the year to December 1994.

Mr Bernerd said that the revival of the central London letting market meant that it would begin two developments, one of 32,000 sq ft on New Bond Street and 115,000 sq ft of offices in St James's.

The strength of the market, especially in London's West End, was reflected by the fact that neither development was pre-let. Completion of the smaller scheme is expected in the middle of next year.

The shares, which floated at 155p, closed 4p lower at 163p.