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Pearl’s creditors set to reject deal on suspended payments

Steve Dinneen
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PEARL Group’s bondholders plan to reject a deal that the insurer hoped would end a bitter dispute over suspended interest repayments.

The firm, founded by pizza entrepreneur Hugh Osmond, suspended interest payments on £500m of its bonds last year, sparking outrage from bondholders.

Pearl has tabled a deal offering to buy back £100m of the bonds at 45 per cent of their value. Anyone who rejects the offer has been asked to accept a 25 per cent reduction in the face value of their bonds. Pearl is also asking creditors to write off the £33m of missed payments.

The deal comes with an added clause that, should the company float on the London Stock Exchange this year as planned, dividend repayments to shareholders would be suspended if future coupon payments were missed.

But bondholders feel they have been “low-balled” by the offer and say they will reject it.

They say there is no justification for wiping out a quarter of the value of their investment and have vowed to fight the company.

A Pearl spokesman said the deal was “absolutely the best we can make.”

He added: “The deal was pitched at what the company could afford. If they reject this it is up in the air what will happen. The truth is, nobody knows.”

Liberty Acquisitions now owns 60 per cent of the business after a cash injection of £450m last year. As part of the same deal Osmond reduced his share in the company from 100 per cent to 30 per cent and injected fresh capital.