Tunnel debt deal on Monday

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The Independent Online
Eurotunnel will announce the details of its pounds 8bn debt restructuring on Monday after a key group of lenders reviewed the terms of the deal at a meeting in London yesterday.

The 25 instructing banks representing all 225 members of Eurotunnel's world-wide banking syndicate spent four hours examining the terms of the refinancing agreement thrashed out by Eurotunnel and its lead bankers last Monday.

Under the restructuring agreement, the banks will swap a portion of their debt for a 49 per cent stake in the Channel Tunnel operator. A further tranche of debt will be exchanged for convertible bonds which, if exercised, would give the banks a controlling stake in Eurotunnel of about 75 per cent.

The announcement of the terms of the deal will pave the way for trading to resume in Eurotunnel shares. They were suspended at 115p - just short of their high for the year - last Monday to avoid a false market as news of talks between the company and its agent banks was about to be released.

A source at one of the instructing banks said that approval for the restructuring package had been made a virtual certainty after the President of the French commercial court had indicated that failure to reach agreement would force him to begin bankruptcy proceedings.

The deal still needs to be approved by a two-thirds majority of Eurotunnel's 750,000 shareholders. They are unlikely to vote on the proposals until early next year. The process of getting the agreement ratified by all members of the banking syndicate is expected to take even longer.

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