Yet another British real estate concern is giving U.S. banks headaches.
Mountleigh Group PLC, one of Britain's oldest public companies, went into receivership Monday with roughly $908 million of debt on its books. A syndicate of banks, led by Citicorp and Barclays Bank PLC, is owed about $725 million.
The bank exposure, first reported in the Financial Times, led analysts to speculate that the two lead banks are each owed as much as $180 million. Bankers Trust New York Corp. and several European banks also are part of the bank syndicate.
A Citicorp spokeswoman confirmed that it is a lender to Mountleigh but would not detail the size of its exposure. A spokeswoman for Bankers Trust said that institution is "not a major creditor."
Banks have been having problems with many loans in Britain, some of which are related to the bankruptcy of Olympia & York Developments Ltd.
But their exposure to Mountleigh is believed to be less problematic. Citicorp, for example, had $380 million in loans outstanding to Olympia & York at the end of the first quarter.
The Mountleigh loans also are secured by assets with values more in synch with those of the loans, experts said. By contrast, many banks are exposed to Olympia & York's troubled Canary Wharf project in London.
"It seems, at least, that the banks have some reasonable value in the security, unlike Canary Wharf, where they have exposure to a hole in the ground," said an analyst who asked not to be named.
Citicorp would not say whether it has set aside reserves for its Mountleigh loan. The problems of the real estate company, which was once controlled by buyout specialists Nelson Peltz and Peter May, have long been known to the bank.
Ex-Citicorp Exec In Charge
In April, Steven Gerard, a corporate banker who had been with Citicorp for 15 years, joined Mountleigh as chief executive officer. Mr. Gerard could not be reached for comment.
KPMG Peat Marwick has been appointed receiver for Mountleigh. Aside from its British holdings, Mountleigh's major investment is its ownership of Galerias Preciados, a Spanish department store chain that was not affected by the receivership.