Coal buyout bid backed by finance groups

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A BRITISH Coal management buyout team has won backing from eight financial institutions in its attempt buy one of five regional packages of mines being offered for sale by the Government, writes Mary Fagan.

The institutions, including Schroder Ventures, Barclays, Midland, NatWest Ventures and 3i, say they want to provide funds for the buyout team, but they have yet to commit cash.

The Northern Coal Company is headed by Alan Houghton, a regional director of British Coal. He is interested in the largest regional package of nine deep mines, including the Selby complex in North Yorkshire, and five opencast mines.

More than 33 parties pre-registered to bid for all or part of British Coal. Among them is Coal Investments, run by Malcolm Edwards, the former commercial director of British Coal. Other potential bidders include electricity firms, the Wimpey construction group and independent mining firms including Ryan and RJB Mining.

Bidders, who are now examining figures on the mines, must submit their plans to the Department of Trade and Industry by mid-September. There is still uncertainty among potential buyers about liabilitiesthey might face over pollution and future redundancies.

Separately, British Coal said it would sell its half of the Hyload polymeric sheeting company for pounds 4.6m to its partner, Ruberoid.