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Last Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Suitors 'circling' troubled Refco
Refco brokers on the New York Mercantile Exchange
Refco is the largest commodities brokerage in the US
Would-be buyers are circling troubled US brokerage firm Refco as it considers putting some units into bankruptcy protection, according to media reports.

Refco, a leading commodities and futures broker, has been in crisis since it revealed it was owed $430m (243m) by an unregulated subsidiary.

These facts were not disclosed at the time of Refco's flotation in August.

Former boss Phillip Bennett has been charged with fraud and Refco shares were suspended after falling 70%.

Potential suitors

The scandal is threatening the future of Refco, one of Wall Street's largest traders of futures and options, used by companies to hedge their exposure to fluctuating prices.

Refco bosses met advisers on Sunday to discuss their options - thought to centre on salvaging the company's futures and commodities unit.

Man Group and JC Flowers have emerged as possible buyers of the operation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

However, Man Group - one of the world's leading hedge fund operators - said on Monday that it was not currently in talks with Refco about acquiring any of its businesses.

The Securities and Exchange Commission should never have let this dog out of the cage
Melvyn Weiss, Milburg Weiss

According to Reuters, Refco is considering seeking bankruptcy protection for a number of unregulated businesses which have stopped trading since Mr Bennett was arrested.

The British-born executive was charged with securities fraud last Wednesday and, if found guilty, could face up to 20 years in jail.

He is accused of hiding the fact that Refco Capital Markets - an unregulated subsidiary he controlled - owed $430m to its parent company through a series of undisclosed transactions.

The $430m has since been repaid, but the firm said its annual accounts since 2002 could not be relied upon.

Refco's former CEO Phillip Bennett leaves a Manhattan court after being charges with fraud
Refco's problems have come two months after its stock market listing

Refco, which has 2,400 employees, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US financial markets regulator.

Refco insisted last week that it had adequate funds to continue trading but credit experts have cast doubt on its future.

Lawsuits expected

The case could now trigger a host of lawsuits from investors in the firm, which listed on the stock market in August.

"In this case it is pretty much open and shut," Melvyn Weiss, from law firm Milberg Weiss - which has registered to represent shareholders in a class action lawsuit - told the BBC.

Investor could have lost up to $1bn, Mr Weiss claimed.

"It is quite obvious in this situation that the financial statements and historic performance of the company were overstated and misleading," he said.

The case highlighted the need for far tougher scrutiny of firms' accounts before they join the stock market, he added.

"This is a clarion call for even stricter oversight. The SEC should never have let this dog out of the cage."

Guardian Unlimited Austrian bank left exposed by Refco collapse - 1 hr ago
MSNBC Refco prompts review of rules - 4 hrs ago
CBC U.S. futures giant goes bankrupt; Canadian subsidary trades on - 9 hrs ago
Calcutta Telegraph Refco rushes for bankruptcy shield - 9 hrs ago
Reuters Refco files for bankruptcy, to sell core unit - 11 hrs ago
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Refco freezes debt-scandal unit
13 Oct 05 |  Business
Former Refco boss on fraud charge
12 Oct 05 |  Business

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


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