German banks ponder another collapse

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Procedo will meet today to debate the fate of the company, which filed for protection from creditors on Wednesday.

Procedo was plunged into crisis when its main client, Balsam, the German sports surface manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy last week after its entire management board was arrested on suspicion of fraud.

The original plan for banks and Procedo's main shareholder, Allgemeine Kredit Versicherung, to discuss a restructuring for Procedo was dropped after AKV made it clear it was not prepared to bail out Procedo.

Bankers are now claiming that the Procedo case might lead to changes in the way banks lend money in the future, as the financial strength of a company's shareholder base is no longer a guarantee of security of the loans.

The banks will try to establish whether Procedo can pay back 35 per cent of its total debt, as called for under Germany's bankruptcy laws. Procedo has debts of more than DM1.5bn ( pounds 604m) and is unlikely to be able to repay the 35 per cent.

It is also understood that the meeting was likely to discuss whether it was possible to make AKV in some way responsible for the debts.

AKV said that in the event of a Procedo collapse it would have to write off its share of the company's capital, valued at DM30m. Bankers say this goes against the old tradition of German shareholders footing at least a proportion of the bill for rescues.