unsecured opes creditors could lose half

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    Unsecured creditors caught up in the collapse of stockbroker Opes Prime could lose up to half of their investment say receivers, as more clients seek legal action to prevent the sale of their shares.

    Opes Prime, which was involved in the lending and borrowing of securities, owes more than $1 billion to secured creditors - mainly the ANZ Banking Group Ltd and Merrill Lynch.

    The accounts of up to 1200 unsecured Opes clients have been frozen.

    "The unsecured creditors will be lucky to get all their money back, very lucky," one of the receivers, Chris Campbell of Deloitte Corporate Reorganisation Group, told Sky News Business.

    "Losing half their money - that might be the case, but at this stage it is too early to call."

    Mr Campbell said the critical factor in working out how much would be returned to unsecured creditors was the money that could be recovered from the irregular accounts within Opes Prime Stockbroking, and a group of assets outside of the stockbroking group.

    The irregular accounts have a book value on the balance sheet of around $200,000 to $300,000, while the book value of assets outside of Opes Prime has a book value of around $130 million to $140 million.

    These assets include property, loans against properties, motor vehicles, loans to other corporates, and some hedge fund investments.

    Opes client CMG Group last week unsuccessfully sought an injunction in the Federal Court to stop ANZ from selling shares it had placed with Opes, while another client, Malaysian-based Melewar Steel Ventures Ltd, has won a temporary injunction in the NSW Supreme Court to halt the sale of its shares in Gindalbie Metals by the ANZ.

    The Victorian Supreme Court has also granted a temporary injunction to Melbourne businessman Paul Choiselat stopping ANZ from selling the shares he had placed with Opes in return for margin loans.

    "We've been approached by a number of other parties that are indicating to us that they will be seeking injunctions," Mr Campbell said.

    "I think at the last count there was something between 26 and 30 legal firms coming at us on behalf of clients, that was across Australia so there is quite a bit of activity there."

    Opes Prime was placed in receivership and administration on March 27 after cash and stock movement irregularities were uncovered.

    © 2008 AAP
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