City File: Hartstone handbagged by consultants

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SHARES in Hartstone Group, the struggling hosiery-to-handbag company, have collapsed from 270p to 54p this year. That they have any value at all is causing some surprise in well- informed quarters of the City.

For several weeks now, the lending banks to the company have had access to a detailed report on the group's finances by Coopers & Lybrand, commissioned two months ago.

The whisper in banking circles is that the group's total liabilities, including off-balance sheet lending, exceed the pounds 100m mentioned so far. They say the report also points to a large reduction in net assets and to uncertainties over current trading.

Shareholders have been treated to summary announcements on the Stock Exchange screen and a few additional snippets in the group's annual report.

A case for fuller disclosure, perhaps?