Interest bill swamps Brent Walker profits

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The Independent Online
BRENT WALKER, the troubled pubs and betting shops group, made a pre-tax loss of pounds 319m in 1993, down from pounds 427m the year before. An interest bill of pounds 212m swamped operating profits, writes John Willcock.

Although the deficit on shareholders' funds has risen to pounds 863m, both the company and its leading banks, owed a total of pounds 1.4bn, are confident the group will not go into receivership.

Sir Keith Bright, Brent's chairman, said there had been little, if any, recovery in either the betting or pub trade.

'The group had a reasonably successful period with turnover increased by 7.1 per cent and operating profits before exceptional items rising by 14 per cent from pounds 49.5m to pounds 56.4m,' he said. 'Of course, the total group interest charge of over pounds 200m swamps this creditable performance.'

John Leach, Brent's finance director, said that only pounds 54m of last year's interest bill had to be paid in cash, the rest in convertibles and similar near-equity instruments. This represented a kind of rolling debt-for-equity swap by the banks, as well as the original pounds 250m debt-for-equity swap Brent achieved in its first refinancing in March 1992.

'We are stablising the group while the core businesses of pubs and betting shops are growing,' said Mr Leach.

The decision by the banks to refinance the William Hill chain at the end of last year meant the company could pull its proposed float, he added.