Alarm sounds in Eurotunnel coup

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Leading creditors of Eurotunnel have spoken out over the looming crisis at the Channel Tunnel operator, warning that shareholders could lose their shirts.

Leading creditors of Eurotunnel have spoken out over the looming crisis at the Channel Tunnel operator, warning that shareholders could lose their shirts.

The comments were prompted by the news that Nicolas Miguet, a maverick French politician and convicted fraudster, is planning a second coup to oust Eurotunnel's chairman, Jacques Gounon, at the company's AGM this month.

However, the banks, which are owed £6.2bn, are incensed by comments made by Mr Miguet and Mr Gounon. Both men have suggested that the banks turn their backs on convention and write off billions of pounds worth of debt without receiving any shares in return.

A senior creditor said: "Creditors are concerned that unrealistic expectations are being raised by the candidates for the chairmanship. This will make it harder for the restructuring to take place for the benefit of the shareholders."

A second source said: "The fact remains that Eurotunnel's restructuring will lead to a change of control, and it will greatly dilute existing shareholders' investments."

Creditors include HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Calyon, part of Crédit Agricole.

The news will be a blow to the 800,000, mainly private, French shareholders who led a coup last year to oust Eurotunnel's former British management team. It is thought that Mr Miguet has already won the support of many private shareholders - who make up 62 per cent of the company - in his second bid to become chairman.

Mr Gounon will launch a media blitz this week ahead of the AGM on 17 June. He is expected to reiterate his earlier claim that that creditors should reduce their debts to €3.3bn (£2.2bn), "with no dilution of shareholder value".

Eurotunnel has warned that without a debt reduction it will go bust in early 2007.

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