Speyhawk still holding talks with bankers: Share plunge leaves troubled property company's market capitalisation at just pounds 2m

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The Independent Online
SHARES in Speyhawk, the troubled property company, fell by a third yesterday as the group disclosed an pounds 89.8m loss for the year to September and said it had still not concluded refinancing talks with its bankers which started almost two years ago.

The loss was less than half the pounds 216.8m suffered the previous year, largely due to a drop in exceptional writedowns on its property portfolio from pounds 204.9m to pounds 67.3m. But the City was worried that talks with its bankers over debts exceeding pounds 300m have run into problems and the shares were marked down from 12p to 8p, leaving the group's market value at just pounds 2m compared with more than pounds 150m at its peak.

But Trevor Osborne, chairman, said that formal documentation was now being prepared, and he hoped the restructuring would be completed soon. The delay was largely because of the time needed to negotiate with 46 different banks, he said.

The talks, being led by Barclays Bank, should lead to a deal that is likely to involve the banks converting at least pounds 100m of loans into subordinated debt, which will be repaid if the property market recovers.

About half the property writedowns are on City properties, with the bulk of the pounds 30.2m provision due to its Cannon Bridge development, partly occupied by the Liffe futures market. Mr Osborne said that a number of other lettings were in the hands of solicitors, which would cut the empty space to 100,000 sq ft or 28 per cent of the total.

A number of small properties were sold during the year, but the bulk of the pounds 69.8m turnover was due to the completion of a shopping centre at Wimbledon, pre-funded by Standard Life, on which letting has been going well. He added: 'We are interested in selling most of the stuff we own.'

The loss per share was 352.1p and there are no dividends.