Tunnel banker may call in pounds 500m

Credit National, the French bank, is in a position to call in pounds 500m worth of loans to Eurotunnel, whose debt might need to be refinanced by a group of the company's banks.

It emerged yesterday that Credit National may follow the European Investment Bank, which has already told the company of its intention to call in pounds 750m of loans.

The two banks, both large backers of the project at the outset, appear to have ensured that a large amount of their exposure was guaranteed by other banks and that they could call in their money in the event of Eurotunnel defaulting on interest payments. Some of the other banks in the 225-strong syndicate will now take up the burden following Eurotunnel's suspension of interest payments on pounds 8bn of debt earlier this month. The French bank said yesterday that it still had an exposure of around pounds 60m to the that is not guaranteed. The EIB has a pounds 300m loan that is not guaranteed.

EIB's decision to call in its loans and the possibility that Credit National may do the same has caused anxiety among some of the banks in Eurotunnel's banking syndicate.

Although the favourable position of the two banks is not contested, many of the other lenders were only recently made aware that they would be called upon to bail out the two banks to the tune of pounds 1.2bn.

A spokesman for the agent banks said the timing of the call was uncertain. He said that with a complex financing of this kind it was not unusual for banks to try to limit their risk exposure in this way.

Meanwhile, TML, the Anglo-French contractors that built the tunnel, are preparing a list of counter claims against Eurotunnel.

Banks weigh options, page 24