Cash crisis at Excel forces debt rethink

Excel is planning a second rescue refinancing less than 18 months after it opened.

Excel is planning a second rescue refinancing less than 18 months after it opened. Chief executive Jamie Buchan has invited bondholders and shareholders to talks about how best to cut debt levels in a bid to realise development plans for the struggling Docklands venue. A year ago, Excel raised £20m from its major shareholders United Business Media, Reed Elsevier and Malaysian outfit Visionary Properties to cover a cash shortfall (Marketing Event, June 2001). Buchan and chief financial officer Barry Maiden, who was appointed in March, agree that the business structure is still not right. Buchan said: “We need to create long-term confidence in the financial state of Excel. Organisers need to bring shows here safe in the knowledge that we have the right financial structure to invest in the development of the venue and the growth of their events.” Prudential is a key holder in a £180m bond currently trading on the financial markets. “The bondholders will be brought together as a collective to discuss any restructure of the debt and any decision will be taken over the coming months,” continued Buchan. The plan to expand the venue from 90,000sqm to 123,000sqm was shelved last year (Marketing Event, July/Aug). The venue still has planning permission for its adjacent 22-acre site. Last month The Sunborn Yacht Hotel opened on site and five hotels are under construction. They are due to open between spring and winter next year. The venue also reported its most successful week in terms of number of events held. From 20-24 May the venue hosted a raft of events including the London International Wine and Spirits Fair, Reed’s Mediacast event, a Korean trade fair and the Audley Harrison boxing match.

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