Sea Containers shares de-listed in New York

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The Independent Online

Sea Containers, the crisis-torn parent company of the UK rail operator GNER, moved a step closer to collapse yesterday after the New York Stock Exchange delisted its shares.

The NYSE said it had taken the decision to suspend trading in Sea Containers shares because the company had failed to file its 2005 results within six months of the due date.

The delisting intensified fears that Sea Containers would be forced to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from its creditors. The company has warned that it may not be able to repay a $115m (£60.9m) bond. It is in talks with lenders in an attempt to agree a refinancing before payment comes due on 15 October.

Shares in the Bermuda-registered company sank a further 14 per cent in New York yesterday. It is now worth just $28m, having lost 90 per cent of its value in the past 12 months. The company was first listed in New York in 1974.

A spokeswoman said: "We are in active discussions with our creditors. Those talks are progressing and are at a sensitive stage. All the energy of the management and advisers is going into the financial restructuring. The delisting is disappointing but not a great surprise although it is not something which has been taken lightly. There has not been any decision taken to go into Chapter 11."

Officials from the UK Department for Transport are monitoring the situation and are understood to be ready to step in if GNER is no longer able to operate the East Coast Mainline, one of the country's flagship rail routes between London and Scotland. Sea Containers disclosed in August that it was in talks with the DfT after a £33m shortfall in revenues in the first 14 months of GNER's new 10-year franchise to run the east coast route, for which it paid the Government £1.3bn last year.

At the time, Sea Containers chief executive Bob Mackenzie said it had only $42m of free cash available. "Although the seas are rough, we are navigating a way through this," he added.