21 June 2002

Viking liabilities top £30m?

TWO months after co-op Viking Cereals went into receivership, it has emerged that its banker NatWest is owed £20m and could be taking legal proceedings to recover its losses.

At an unsecured creditors meeting last Friday, receiver KPMG revealed some of Vikings liabilities, although there is still some mystery over the full losses on London and Chicago futures markets, rumoured to be about £12m.

"The receivers intend to pursue all the avenues that are open to them," says Tom Watkinson, partner of Roythorne & Co, the solicitor acting for the Viking Cereals Members Working Group.

Mr Watkinson indicated that KPMG could sue Viking directors or auditors on behalf of the unsecured creditors. "NatWest are going to do whatevers necessary to get that money back." The bank refused to comment.

Other unsecured creditors include futures broker Refco, reportedly owed about £2m.

But it appears that members of the liquidated co-op will soon be protected against the still unclear liabilities by accepting a rescue package put together by Centaur Grain. Over 75% of members needed to vote in favour of the deal by todays closing date (Friday).

Centaurs offer will see the co-op pay £1m in lieu of members liabilities, and protect them against further claims. "The overwhelming majority have indicated their intention to accept this offer," says non-executive director of Centaur, Philip Moody.

If accepted, the full and final settlement will be finalised by July 1, when members will start to repay the advance. &#42