Wembley nears Pacer disposal

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WEMBLEY, the debt-laden sports stadium and leisure venue operator, is close to finalising the sale of its American Pacer Cats ticketing operation for around pounds 20m, according to sources close to the company.

If completed, the disposal will help the highly geared company meet a March deadline imposed by banks last year.

Wembley, which is chaired by Sir Brian Wolfson, promised its banks, led by Barclays, that it would reduce borrowings by pounds 40m, with a further pounds 10m to be repaid by the end of December.

At the end of June last year the company's debts stood at nearly pounds 140m. A sale of Pacer on the expected terms would reduce these by nearly pounds 45m. Pacer Cats produces computerised ticket machines for cinema and sporting venues in a number of countries.

Sir Brian would not comment on details of the sale ahead of the company's 1993 results, due in April, but he did say that the company was on target to meet its commitments to its bankers.

As the company's disposal programme proceeds, shareholders have voiced concern about the potential for earnings growth. These worries have not been helped this week by speculation that the Football Association, which has a contract with Wembley to hold its major events there until 2002, may move some events to other stadia because of a row over perimeter advertising.

Sir Brian has dismissed this talk, saying that he does not believe that the FA will renege on its contract.

Wembley shares, which closed the week at 17.5p, have fallen a long way from their high of 157p a few years ago.