Banks agree to extend Cattles' £500m loan

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The Independent Online

The beleaguered doorstep lender Cattles has extended its £500m credit facility until December, relieving some pressure as it battles to stay afloat.

The company's shares have not traded since April, when it failed to report its 2008 financial results. Eight board members, including the chairman, chief executive and finance director, were sacked without compensation earlier this month after an investigation disclosed irregularities in the way impairment charges were reported.

A consortium of banks, led by Royal Bank of Scotland, are owed £500m by Cattles, owner of the Welcome Finance consumer loans business. They have agreed to extend its loan facility, which was due for re-financing this week, until the end of the year.

The banks, as well as bondholders and other creditors, are still talking to the group's new management about its total debt of £2.4bn. Cattles, based in Batley, West Yorkshire, insists the negotiations are constructive, but some analysts have suggested that the lenders are trying to cut their losses.

The company has written no new business for months. Last year, the Financial Services Authority refused Cattles' application for a banking licence that it said was crucial for its plans. While yesterday's deal with the lenders is not a formal standstill agreement, pushing back the maturity date of the facility will give Cattles some breathing space. It refused to say how much of the facility had been drawn.