Leisure group's revamp opposed

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The Independent Online
A LARGE holder of preference shares in European Leisure, the debt-laden disco and snooker-hall operator, is urging other shareholders to vote down the board's restructuring proposals at a shareholders' meeting scheduled to take place in Dublin shortly before Christmas.

Henk van Heyst, a director of a Dutch-based investment company, Van Heyst Investments, said that the restructuring, which also involves banks converting pounds 20m of debt into equity, treats preference shareholders unfairly in relation to ordinary shareholders.

Mr van Heyst, who was one of the participants in the Saatchi & Saatchi restructuring, speaks for 11 per cent of the preference shares and 3 per cent of the ordinary shares. The proposals need 75 per cent support from both classes of shareholders to be voted through.

Under the current proposals, according to Mr van Heyst, 27 per cent of the new capital in the company would be owned by the holders of the current preference shares and ordinary shares combined. Of this, 63 per cent would devolve to the ordinary shareholders and 37 per cent to the preference shareholders.

He has proposed an alternative scheme, in which 70 per cent of the 27 per cent would be owned by the preference shareholders, and only 30 per cent would go to the holders of the ordinary shares.

But the company's merchant bank, Charterhouse, maintains that Mr van Heyst's proposals ignore the current net asset position of the company, which leaves no surplus for distribution to shareholders in the event of the proposals not going through.

The merchant bank said that the proposals will not be changed ahead of the meeting. 'It's an extremely difficult balancing exercise,' a spokesman said.