28 June 2002

Yes vote for Centaur Grain Viking rescue

MEMBERS of Viking Cereals, the farmer-owned co-op which went into liquidation on Apr 8, have voted in favour of a rescue package put forward by Centaur Grain.

The co-op approached Viking members on May 31 with an offer that would limit any debts they might have been liable for – rumoured to be up to £12m. The 380 members were given 21 days to consider and submit their votes, which expired on June 21.

Producers responsible for over 80% of Vikings committed tonnage accepted the deal, above the 75% minimum required under the receivers terms.

"Vikings demise has been traumatic for those members involved and the deal we have put together will allow them to draw a line in the sand in respect of their liabilities," says Centaurs managing director, Jonathan Cowens.

Strategic alliances

"It is also entirely consistent with our policy, which involves expansion through strategic alliances with other farmer-owned businesses."

The £1m paid in full and final settlement of the still-unknown liabilities will be paid back by members over the next five years, at an average cost of about £2900/person.

The deal also includes an equalisation fund, whereby those members who had been paid by Viking will help compensate those who delivered grain but never received payment.

Receiver KPMG has agreed to keep the offer open for another week, to June 28, to allow any members who missed the closing date time to reconsider. Those producers could still be liable to any unsecured creditors, including NatWest Bank and commodity broker Refco, says Centaur chairman, Richard Beldam. &#42