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Learning English - Words in the News
17 June, 2005 - Published 11:42 GMT

Shareholders in the Anglo-French company Eurotunnel are meeting to decide who should lead the company through make-or-break negotiations with its banks. The company, which operates the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France, is weighed down by more than eleven billion dollars of debt and faces the real prospect of bankruptcy. This report from John Moylan:

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Shareholders in Eurotunnel feel they have every reason to be angry. They bought into the grand plan of a huge tunnel between France and England that would revolutionise travel across the English Channel.

But the sums have never added up. The project opened late and over budget; projections for customers through the tunnel proved to be hopelessly optimistic. Shareholders have lost ninety-eight percent of their initial investment: little wonder that last year, amid acrimonious scenes, they voted out the entire Eurotunnel board. On Friday, they must choose who will lead the company through crucial negotiations with its lenders.

The chairman, Jacques Gounon, is demanding the banks simply write off two-thirds of the debt. He's gambling that they will agree, rather than end up owning and running this huge business. But he could be challenged by his former chief executive. Jean-Louis Raymond resigned last Friday. He said that he will propose an alternative board and a plan to rescue the business.

Whoever ultimately leads the company, they know that time is running out. The chairman has warned that a deal with the banks must be struck by October; otherwise, with major debt repayments due over the next eighteen months, the business could go bust.

John Moylan, BBC

Listen to the words

owners of parts of a company's capital

bought into
obtained a share in an enterprise by payment

the sums have never added up
the project has failed to become as successful as expected

forecasts or estimates based on current trends

little wonder that
not surprisingly


very important

write off

a deal with the banks must be struck
an agreement with the banks must be reached

go bust
become bankrupt, become insolvent

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