Wembley shares suspended on verge of deal

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The Independent Online
Dealings in Wembley shares were suspended at 6p yesterday, ahead of the conclusion of a refinancing of its £140m of debts. The company, which owns the national football stadium, may announce the reconstruction and an accompanying boardroom shake-up next week, John Shepherd writes.

"An announcement will be made as quickly as possible. All things being equal, an announcement on the terms of a deal will be made by the end of the month," a spokesman said. Wembley is advised by Charterhouse, the merchant bank, and Smith New Court, its stockbroker.

Analysts believe that the only way for Wembley to extricate itself from its current problems is through a debt-for-equity swap and the raising of fresh capital through a rights issue. The company, which also owns dog tracks in the US and the Wembley Arena and Wembley Conference Centre, is valued at just £26m by the stock market.

The refinancing will be accompanied by annual results, which analysts predict will show that Wembley made no money in 1994. Losses in 1993 totalled £67.5m, almost twice the amount lost in the year before.

Holders of ordinary shares, which have tumbled from a high of 146p in 1987, are likely to see their holdings diluted heavily by the refinancing which, so far, has taken more than six months to put together.

Preference shareholders, particularly Sir Ron Brierley's Guinness Peat Group (GPG), have been active behind the scenes and have pushed hard for big changes at the group. GPG, which holds a key 25 per cent of the preference shares, has insisted publicly that Sir Brian Wolfson hand over the chairmanship.

GPG said yesterday that it had no further comment to make. Sir Brian, who has headed Wembley since 1987, said: "We believe we can do a deal with everyone. Charterhouse has talked with them [GPG]."

Dealings in the preference shares, of which 18.55 million are in issue, have also been suspended at 58p. Every 100 preference shares can be converted in 87 ordinary each August until 1999.