Bond scheme is hit by delay

March 10, 1995

The launch of a Pounds 100-million bond scheme backed by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and the Higher Education Funding Council for England has been put back several months while five universities enter further detailed negotiations with the merchant bank European Capital.

A meeting of 18 universities was convened last week, and it was expected that at least ten universities would sign up to the scheme. But only five, whose identities remain secret, opted to press ahead. Over the coming months they will work with European Capital to establish the necessary credit requirements and to decide whether the universities will have to put capital into the planned company as security.

Tony Bruce, resources manager of the CVCP, said: "There is still uncertainty about who will be admitted to the scheme." He added that other universities would be allowed to join when the planned consortium is officially launched later this year.

John Bloor, finance controller of Nottingham Trent, one of the original 18, said that while he participated in the discussions only as "an observer", he might be interested in joining the scheme in the future.

Maurice Hoschild, director of European Capital, said working with so many universities had been "a little unmanageable" and predicted that the universities would quickly develop "a firmer package" that would satisfy lenders in the insurance and pension firms.

Marketing higher education in the City is one of the major obstacles to a successful bond scheme. The CVCP is sponsoring conferences in London and Scotland later this month to promote the virtues of lending to universities. More than 1,000 invitations have gone out to banks, insurance companies and property developers.

* While the bond scheme has suffered a small setback, the 12 universities affected by the recent tax legislation changes designed to curb the abuse of Qualifying Indexed Securities have won an important amendment to delay changes until April 1996. But the CVCP said it would be seeking a further extension for the universities, which receive Pounds 300 million for the tax scheme.

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