Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 14:32 UK

West Ham bank deal 'not certain'

By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

West Ham United owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson
Mr Gudmundsson's holding firm Hansa has hit financial difficulties

A takeover of football club West Ham United by Icelandic bank Straumur looks unlikely at present, the BBC has learnt from industry insiders.

Reports had indicated that Straumur was poised to take on ownership of the club from its owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson.

But Straumur is restructuring and at an effective business standstill.

The BBC also understands that any potential takeover by the bank in the future is only one of a number of options that West Ham is considering.

'One option'

One football industry expert with knowledge of the situation said a Straumur takeover was by no means certain to happen, adding that: "It is only one of the options potentially on [the club's] agenda."

It was reported at the weekend that two potential bidders, from the Middle East and Far East, had expressed an interest in buying the club.

However, as yet the club has not opened its books to any parties to undertake due diligence.

Icelandic bank Straumur provided much of the money in loans for Mr Gudmundsson's £85m purchase of West Ham United in November 2006.

Since then Mr Gudmundsson's holding company Hansa - in effect West Ham's United's holding company - has hit financial difficulties and gone into administration.

It means Straumur remains a major creditor of Hansa, whose biggest asset is West Ham.

'Client confidentiality'

However, Straumur itself has run into the difficulties experienced by a number of Icelandic banks this year.

Unlike many of its peers it has not been nationalised, but is now undergoing an operational restructuring.

It is possible that Straumur will be taken over by an asset management firm, which will then decide what decision to take towards Hansa and West Ham.

Straumur bank spokesman Georg Andersen said the bank could not comment on West Ham as it did not have a direct business relationship with the club.

And, referring to Mr Gudmundsson's holding company Hansa, he said: "For confidentiality reasons we cannot comment on individual clients."

Moratoriums

Although Straumur is conducting virtually no business at present, the bank is understood to have been considering various future options regarding all of its clients, including West Ham's holding company Hansa.

Meanwhile, there are two moratoriums in place at the moment.

One has put payments from Straumur to its creditors on hold, and the other currently prevents any of Hansa's creditors acquiring any of its assets, including West Ham.



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