Lifeline for care home operator
Stricken care home provider Southern Cross has been thrown a lifeline after its landlords said they were prepared to take significant cuts in rent.
But the Southern Cross Landlords' Committee also said it wanted the Government and the company's lenders to share the financial pain in helping to rescue it.
The committee, which represents the 80 landlords of the group's 752 care homes, announced it had put together an outline proposal that it hopes will help ensure the company's survival.
Darlington-based Southern Cross, the UK's largest care home operator with 31,000 elderly residents, has been struggling under a £202 million annual rent burden as its own income falls with public sector customers making cutbacks.
It recently announced it would cut its rent payments by an average of 30% over the next four months to buy it some breathing space.
It is understood that the proposals drawn up at a meeting of the landlords today effectively say they would be prepared to take some kind of long-term rent cut on the condition that the Government and the banks "share the pain" by writing off some of the money they are owed by the company.
Southern Cross's main lenders are Barclays and taxpayer-backed Lloyds Banking Group, which are understood to be owed about £40 million between them. The taxman is reported to be owed £20 million by the company.
The proposals will also allow landlords who want to take their care homes back from Southern Cross to run the homes themselves or find other users.
Southern Cross, which employs some 44,000 staff, is likely to be left with a much smaller number of homes than it currently runs.
Daniel Smith, chairman of the Southern Cross Landlords' Committee, said: "A meeting of the Southern Cross landlords today approved a draft outline proposal for the speedy resolution of the current situation. The landlords have agreed in principle that they will make significant financial concessions in order to achieve a sustainable solution."