Stanhope gag

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The Independent Online
LAWYERS acting for the stricken Stanhope Properties have obtained an injunction preventing publication of proposals for restructuring its finances.

The proposals, code-named 'Operation Phoenix' and described by an insider as 'an early draft by Schroders and Jones Lang Wootton', were obtained by the property trade weekly, Estates Times.

The injunction is bound to raise concern in the City over the possibility of so far undisclosed difficulties in the finances of Stanhope and its associated companies. However, a source close to Stanhope said that publication of what was 'a normal working document' would prevent the company continuing its restructuring discussions in a normal, businesslike way. The source insisted that it was only one of a number of drafts that are now being circulated.

Last week Stanhope revealed a net asset deficit of pounds 15.8m, against a surplus of pounds 42.2m a year earlier.

Stuart Lipton, Stanhope's long-serving chief executive, believes it will be some months before restructuring proposals are put to shareholders. The proposals are certain to involve substantial dilution of the present equity, reducing Mr Lipton's 31 per cent stake by up to three-quarters.

Despite the deficit, Mr Lipton is bullish about a continued improvement in the London commercial property market.

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