Tiphook must reduce container sale price

TIPHOOK, the troubled transport company, will have to reduce the pounds 830m sale price of its main container leasing business, but it still hopes Transamerica of the US will pay substantially more than pounds 700m.

Transamerica's due diligence inquiries have uncovered some problems but Tiphook does not believe the US group will demand a substantial reduction in the price it agreed to pay last month.

A Tiphook spokesman yesterday said the deal was set to be completed and shareholders would hear full details, including the reduced price, next month.

The success of the deal is crucial to 'Son of Tiphook', as advisers are calling the trailer rental and rail activities that will be left behind.

Tiphook's critics are highly sceptical that the group's 500,000 containers are worth anything approaching pounds 830m, arguing that new containers can cost less than dollars 2,000. This would suggest Transamerica was paying perhaps pounds 200m or more in goodwill for 'fire sale' assets, a Tiphook bear said yesterday.

SG Warburg Securities last week issued a 'sell' note on Tiphook. Warburg remains concerned about Tiphook's tax position and a pounds 280m commitment to buy new trailers.

Robert Montague, Tiphook's controversial chairman, is expected to continue to play a central role in the restructured group, although he may not remain as chairman.

The Independent on Sunday yesterday revealed that Hypo Bank, a large German bank, recently threatened to demand repayment of its loan, less than pounds 5m of the pounds 1bn that Tiphook owes. Tiphook said Hypo Bank did not present a problem. No bank had given notice of its intention to demand repayment.