Eurotunnel board in turmoil over £6.4bn debt mountain

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The Independent Online
Nicolas Miguet, the convicted fraudster and share tipster who succeeded in ousting the entire Eurotunnel board a year ago, has warned he will seek the removal of the current chairman unless he backs moves to renegotiate the Channel Tunnel operator's £6.4bn of bank debt.

Nicolas Miguet, the convicted fraudster and share tipster who succeeded in ousting the entire Eurotunnel board a year ago, has warned he will seek the removal of the current chairman unless he backs moves to renegotiate the Channel Tunnel operator's £6.4bn of bank debt.

The current Eurotunnel board is now said to be deeply split over whether to approach its banking syndicate formally to seek a waiver of its covenants, allowing talks to begin on a debt-for-equity swap.

Miguet, who is said to speak for 5 million Eurotunnel shares, is understood to be supporting the company's two executive directors, the chief executive Jean-Louis Raymond and the deputy chief executive Hervé Huas, in their stand-off with the chairman Jacques Gounon and the rest of the board.

The executives are said to be pressing for the waiver to be granted in the face of opposition from Eurotunnel's non-executive directors, led by M. Gounon, who replaced Jacques Maillot as chairman in February. M. Maillot, a former leisure executive, was installed as chairman in April last year after Miguet led a shareholder revolt to oust the then Eurotunnel chairman, Charles Mackay and its chief executive Richard Shirrefs.

Eurotunnel is scheduled to hold a board meeting on Friday at which the subject of a bank waiver could be discussed. A spokesman confirmed a meeting would take place but refused to comment on the agenda.

Eurotunnel is facing a cash crunch at the end of this year when it has to start paying all of its £300m interest bill in cash. The last debt-for-equity swap, four years ago, took 18 months to negotiate and fears are mounting that unless Eurotunnel starts talks with its banks soon, it will run out of road.

There has been speculation that SNCF, the state-owned French railway which runs Eurostar passenger services and also freight trains through the tunnel, will rescue Eurotunnel. But sources close to the creditors committee played down the likelihood of this, saying no approaches had been made to the banks by SNCF.

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