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DEVELOPER'S EMPIRE IS ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE; Firms in vow to fight EUR1bn deficit.

Byline: YVONNE KINSELLA

A PROPERTY tycoon's business empire is on the brink today as a judge ruled the business had little chance of survival.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly refused to appoint an examiner to six companies controlled by Liam Carroll.

The High Court judge said the optimism expressed by an independent accountant was "fanciful" and "lacking in reality".

He slammed suggestions the firms could turn a EUR1billion deficit into a EUR300million surplus in three years in the current climate.

The judge said he wasn't satisfied the Zoe group of companies, which have had court protection, had a reasonable chance of keeping afloat.

He refused the application for an examinership, which would mean a plan would be put in place to try and save them.

Mr Justice Kelly ruled the projections handed over were based on discussions with the companies' management and out of date valuation reports by two firms, Hooke & McDonald and CBRE.He said they could not be considered fully independent, having worked for the group in the past.

The proposed survival scheme was deemed most unusual as it would not require any investment in the companies or writedown of debts. Lawyers for the businesses now want to appeal to the Supreme Court and the judge has yet to decide if he can place a stay on his refusal to appoint an examiner.

ACC Bank prompted the protection petition by demanding repayment of the firm's EUR136million loans earlier this month.

AIB and Bank of Scotland Ireland are the largest lenders with 40% and 23.8% of the EUR1.1billion borrowings respectively.

Carroll is one of Ireland's most high-profile developers. His projects include Dublin's Gasworks building. He is believed to have lost a large sum of money when he sold his share in Aer Lingus

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TYCOON Liam Carroll
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:300
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