Scottish Heritable Trust suspended: Question mark over future of company

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The Independent Online
THE FUTURE of Scottish Heritable Trust, the industrial holding company in which Roger Shute has a near 10 per cent stake, was thrown into doubt yesterday after its shares were suspended at 5p.

The suspension was made at the company's request 'pending clarification of its financial position' - a phrase normally used for companies in grave difficulties.

Mr Shute was previously chairman of BM Group, the former high- flying engineering conglomerate, but he stepped down because of ill health last year. Following his departure BM ran into considerable financial difficulties.

However, Mr Shute has been increasing his business activities over the past year by acquiring stakes in several ailing small companies, including Anglia Secure Homes, the sheltered housing company, and GM Firth, the steel group.

Two months ago he acquired a 9.6 per cent holding in Scottish Heritable and made a comeback by accepting the post of temporary chief executive.

The company, which owns a ragbag of property interests, has been struggling with debts of about pounds 25m and has been under pressure from banks to reduce borrowings by selling more assets.

In September, it agreed to dispose of Fox Ridge Homes, a Tennessee subsidiary, for pounds 5.6m. The deal was expected to be completed by early last month. The sum included pounds 500,000 compensation not to compete with Fox Ridge for five years.

In the six months to 30 June, the company reported an increase in pre-tax losses from pounds 2.9m to pounds 6.33m. There was no dividend. At the time of the result, it said that its primary objective was to reduce debt, and that banking facilities were being made available on an 'informal basis' to allow further disposals.

No one from the group was available for comment yesterday.