Future of Punch pubs in balance

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The Independent Online

The UK arm of Ambac, a bond insurer, has hired debt restructuring experts ahead of a battle over the future of the indebted pubs group Punch Taverns.

It is understood that FTI Consulting will negotiate for Ambac when Ian Dyson, the recently installed Punch chief executive, concludes a business review in the coming weeks. Although Punch is worth around £430m, it had debt of more than £3bn in its last annual results.

Punch, which has 6,770 pubs, has already hired Goldman Sachs and Blackstone to advise on a restructuring, while Rothschild is acting for bondholders. Ambac's US arm was in trouble last year, which led to a hit on Punch even though the UK arm is in rude health.

Restructuring experts believe that any proposal will be subject to months of negotiations.

Punch's shares closed at 66.2p on Friday, down 2.43 per cent on the start of the day's trading.