Creditors give Mount Banking the go-ahead

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The Independent Online
HOPES of reviving the Asian banking sector in Britain took a step forward yesterday when creditors of Mount Banking Corporation approved a switch out of administration into a more flexible company voluntary arrangement. A CVA is often a prelude to putting a company back in business.

It also emerged that one possibility under study is a merger of Mount with Equatorial Bank, which closed earlier this year as fears mounted about the safety of Asian banks.

The Bank of England is keen to see more Asian banks trading again, after a year in which the number has been reduced from four banks to a sole survivor, Meghraj. In principle it would back a merger - but it must first approve the owners and managers.

There is a hitch, because the fate of Mount hinges on appeals by KPMG Peat Marwick, the administrators, and the bank's owners, the Shah family, against Bank of England restrictions on the family's control.

Mount was closed down by the Bank of England last autumn and the Bank made clear at the time that the issue was the fitness and properness of the management rather than solvency.

Creditors of Mount have been told they could receive payouts of about 60p in the pound over the next few months and might eventually get all their money back.

There are creditors' claims of pounds 140m against pounds 110m of funds, and a loan portfolio with a book value of a further pounds 65m. The creditors' committee has indicated that pounds 10m of provisions may be needed.

However, there is still a possibility that further creditors could emerge on the scene before the CVA becomes binding. Standard Chartered Bank yesterday failed to take up an offer from the administrator, Phil Wallace of KPMG Peat Marwick, which would have allowed it to vote at the meeting held to approve the CVA.

He proposed to admit Standard Chartered as a creditor for a nominal amount of pounds 100, so it could keep its options open. But Standard still has a month to notify any claim and could ask for a five-month extension.