DAF bondholders begin court action

Bondholders in the failed truckmaker DAF NV have begun a multi-million-pound court action against the company's 10-strong bank syndicate, which includes Barclays, Lloyds and National Westminster.

Thousands of investors, among them a group of Dutch nuns, the Sisters of Saint Francis, claim that they were misled by the banks, led by the Netherlands-based ABN Amro.

The dispute involves a 150 million guilder (£57m) bond issue by DAF in 1988. The company went bankrupt in 1993, but the bondholders claim that while senior creditors were reimbursed they received nothing.

The writ has been issued on behalf of bondholders by the trustee to the bond issue, Nederlandsche Trust-Maatschappij (NTM). The writ alleges that ABN Amro published misleading information in a 1988 prospectus to the issue.

NTM's Otto Linker said yesterday that the writ had been served on 23 December. NTM argues that bondholders were promised equal treatment with other creditors and say they are owed about 150m guilders raised from asset sales after DAF's collapse.

A new company, DAF Trucks BV, was resurrected from the collapse and bank creditors got more than 800m guilders.

One of the bondholders, Gary Klesch, whose London firm Klesch & Co specialises in bond bankruptcy situations, said DAF executives had told them the bond investors ranked equally as creditors with the banks.

Mr Klesch said that the former DAF chairman, Aart van der Padt, had confirmed in public hearings in 1993 that it was "his understanding that the bondholders would be entitled to the same security as the banks". Klesch & Co is thought to own bonds worth £10m.

Mr Linker said the group bank creditors were the first target of the action, but if the court failed to grant bondholders equal treatment, NTM would begin action against ABN.

ABM declined to comment on the action. The banks have three months to respond to the writ.

DAF bonds have a nominal value of 100 guilders but have been trading at 7 guilders.

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