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Ailing De La Rue braced for showdown with lenders

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Ailing De La Rue braced for showdown with lenders

De La Rue, the Bank of England's only banknote printer, is ready for final talks with its creditors after they have called in consultants to start a business review.

Sky News found that the banking union in De La Rue, led by HSBC and includes all of the UK's largest lenders, has appointed FTI Consulting to oversee rigorous negotiations over its future loan agreements.

The hiring of the FTI occurs after a torrid period for the company, which dates back to 1820 and started printing bank notes 40 years later.

In November, he cast doubt on his prospects for survival when he said there was "material uncertainty" about the future, unless he could resolve his growing net debt position.

A recovery plan is due to be presented by De La Rue's new management team – led by President Kevin Loosemore and Chief Executive Clive Vacher – next month.

The company, which controversially lost its contract to print British passports to a Franco-Dutch rival starting this year, has a £ 275 million credit line due to expire in late 2021.

In addition to HSBC, its creditors are Barclays, Bank of Ireland, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander UK.

The union's Independent Business Review is expected to be completed in the coming months.

Analysts believe the company, which now has a market capitalization of just £ 140 million, will have little choice but to increase shareholders' equity this year.

In its last set of results, the company reported a net debt position of around £ 170 million – more than its equity is now worth.

De La Rue shares, which ended trading on Friday at 134.8p, ​​fell 68% last year.

Less than a decade ago, his board rejected an offer to buy nearly £ 1 billion from French rival Oberthur.

A series of profit notices forced the company to split its dividends and to review virtually the entire board.

It also sold the remaining passport-making business for just £ 42 million, a fraction of its value if it had kept the passport arrangement in the UK.

To add to De La Rue's problems, last year he released an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office in its banknote printing operations in South Sudan.

De La Rue also found himself involved in a payment line in 2019, when almost half of the shareholders who voted against the company's compensation report on a payment of £ 132,000 in the pension pot of former chief executive Martin Sutherland.

The amount was equivalent to 30% of Sutherland's base salary and, together with the company's poor performance, placed De La Rue directly in the sights of the city's major investors.

Activist shareholder Crystal Amber now owns about 15% of the company, increasing its stake since the appointment of the new management team.

A De La Rue spokesman said: "As we indicated earlier, we will announce a recovery plan during [the first quarter of 2020].

"Naturally, we look forward to having discussions with our banks and their advisers during this process, as we move forward with our plans for the company."

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