Page last updated at 18:54 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Law passed to help church society

Presbyterian Mutual Society door
The PMS said its directors were grateful for assistance

Legislation has been passed which gives the Presbyterian Mutual Society the option of going into administration or a voluntary repayment arrangement.

Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, made the announcement on Friday, after PMS said it could not meet demands for withdrawals from members.

The society has assets of 300m and about 9,500 shareholder accounts.

The PMS said "administration was not liquidation", but was to protect a company "facing liquidity issues".

"An administrator acts in the best interests of everyone who is owed money and will take steps to rescue the society or, if this is not possible, he will ensure that the society is wound down in an orderly manner to maximise the return of money to members," it said.

The PMS said members of the society would "ultimately have the final say on how matters are resolved".

Ms Foster said either of the options would protects members' interests in the current economic climate and that she wanted to do everything to help those families affected.

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster hopes the legislation will make a difference

"Administration would afford the PMS time to reorganise their business and an opportunity for the administrator to manage the society's affairs with a view to safeguarding its assets and funds and preserving the interests of its members," she said.

"Alternatively, a voluntary arrangement would enable PMS to seek the agreement of its creditors, to pay them part or all of what they are owed over a period of time."

In a statement, the PMS said its directors were grateful for the assistance of the minister and her department in "expediting legislation".

"At this stage, no action has been taken. The society is continuing to take independent legal and financial advice and as soon as any action is taken the society will inform its members," it said.

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