Tiphook unable to sign 'comfort' letter (CORRECTED)

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The Independent Online

TIPHOOK, the troubled container leasing group, has been unable to sign a 'letter of comfort' assuring its bankers that it has sufficient funds to meet all its debt obligations over the next 12 months.

The letter, according to banking sources, was requested by a group of Tiphook's bankers last week as part of their negotiations with the company.

Tiphook's refusal to sign the letter was on the advice of Morgan Grenfell. The company has debts of more than pounds 1bn and recently informed shareholders that it was in breach of its banking facilities and was in urgent discussions with its bankers.

Some of the banks are being asked to sign waivers that would allow the company to pledge assets to its five largest banks - including NatWest, Lloyds and Commerzbank - in return for them putting up the new money that the company needs to survive in its current form.

Some of the smaller banks have refused to sign the waivers without the 'comfort' letter.

The rebel banks are believed to include the German banks Hypo Bank and BHF Bank.

One of the rebel bankers said last night: 'We are not going to agree to lose something for the sake of other people without some kind of assurances.'

A source close to the banks with the greatest exposure to Tiphook said that the company could not afford to be reckless in any way and make assurances that it was not 100 per cent sure to be able to keep.

'The company has to be extremely careful about what information it gives out to the market,' the source said.

A spokesman for Tiphook said that the leasing company could not comment on the progress of its talks with its bankers.

Tiphook staved off an immediate crisis earlier this week when it met a dollars 15m interest payment on two tranches of debt to its US bondholders.


We have been asked to make it clear that BHF Bank has no financial exposure to Tiphook, the container leasing company, and is therefore not party to the refinancing talks reported on earlier in the week.