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Last Updated: Friday, 13 February, 2004, 18:40 GMT
Jackson 'financial crisis' denied
Michael Jackson
Mr Jackson will not attend court on Friday
Michael Jackson's music manager has denied reports that the singer, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse, is having financial problems.

The New York Times claimed Jackson owed $70m (36m) to the Bank of America, but was unable to repay the loan.

Charles Koppelman insisted Mr Jackson's assets far exceeded his debts, saying the star "has the ability to generate huge sums of money".

A further court hearing took place on Friday but Mr Jackson did not attend.

Mr Koppelman said Mr Jackson, like most people with large assets, also has large debts and that the singer regularly renegotiates loans.

He added that neither Mr Jackson's current legal problems nor his link with religious organisation the Nation of Islam had affected his ability to raise money, as reported by the New York Times.

Bank of America spokeswoman Jennifer Tice declined to comment.

Low key

The court hearing in Santa Maria, California, on Friday was held so lawyers could discuss a date for a preliminary hearing, when the first evidence will be presented.

But the judge opted to delay a decision until 2 April, because Mr Jackson's lawyer Mark Geragos said he had only just recieved 400 pages of the prosecution's evidence and needed more time to study it.

Mr Geragos said he believed the prosecution was "halfway there" in handing over its evidence.

Judge Rodney Melville advised both the prosecution and defence attorneys that he hoped for the case to go to trial by the end of the year - which all parties agreed was possible.

He also said edited documents related to the searches which took place during the police investigation would be released next week.

Mr Jackson is charged with seven counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 and two counts of giving the child an "intoxicating agent".

A handful of fans turned up for the hearing - in contrast to the scenes at the arraignment hearing last month, when thousands arrived and Mr Jackson danced on top of a vehicle.

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