View from City Road: The saving of Speyhawk

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The Independent Online
AT first sight it seems odd that Barclays has been caught up in yet another property mess so soon after the Imry debacle, this time courtesy of Trevor Osborne's Speyhawk. The Speyhawk refinancing, which has been 18 months in the making, is set to be announced in the next few weeks as the banks dot the 'i's and cross the 't's.

Under the deal roughly pounds 100m of bank loans will become subordinated debt, in effect making its repayment dependent on a speedy recovery in the property market.

Since the latter continues to look as flat as the proverbial pancake, it appears that Barclays, as Speyhawk's lead banker, will again have to pay for overlending in the late 1980s, as it has already done with Mountleigh, Heron, Olympia & York and Imry.

A nice welcome indeed for Andrew Buxton in his first week as Barclays' chairman and chief executive.

But another gloss can be put on this story. A public company will have been saved, for the moment at least. Although it is highly unlikely shareholders will recover anything, the banks are sensibly minimising their losses by leaving in place the best qualified people to run the company - Speyhawk's existing mangement.

The receivership specialists at the accountants Touche Ross yesterday paid tribute to the way the banks, particularily the big four clearers, are supporting companies through the recession. It would be a pity if, post-Imry, Barclays had decided to let Speyhawk go under.