Polly Peck's US arm sold

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The Independent Online
BANKS owed about dollars 300m ( pounds 155m) by Polly Peck International, the crashed fruit and electronics group, are likely to be repaid following the sale of Del Monte, its US fruit operation, to a consortium of investors.

The sale of Del Monte Fresh Produce was announced by the administrators, Coopers & Lybrand, yesterday. No price was disclosed, but it is believed to be just under dollars 500m.

The purchaser is an investor group led by Grupo Cabal, an industrial and financial group with a controlling interest in Banco BCH, Mexico's largest commercial bank. Other members include Nacional Financiera, one of the largest Mexican banks.

The sale means that the banks which financed the dollars 875m acquisition of Del Monte by Polly Peck in December 1989 are likely to be repaid in full. About dollars 300m of the dollars 605m in loans is still outstanding, but the debts are ring-fenced from the rest of the group and are secured on Del Monte's assets.

The administrators had originally planned to float Del Monte in the US, but the plan was abandoned because of the uncertain state of the financial markets. Instead, Goldman Sachs conducted an auction of the business which, Del Monte said, attracted a great deal of interest.

Polly Peck collapsed with debts of more than pounds 1bn in September 1990. It is still uncertain how much of the remaining debt, which was not used for the Del Monte deal, will be repaid.

Asil Nadir, Polly Peck's former chairman, is now bankrupt and on bail facing charges of theft and false accounting of more than pounds 1bn. He also faces a claim from the administrators for the return of more than pounds 300m.

Del Monte, which has 14,000 employees, is one of the two largest pineapple suppliers and the third-largest banana marketer in the world. It also supplies other tropical fruit.

Brian Haycox, chief executive, said the deal would provide the capital and long-term support the group had been looking for.

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