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Interserve holds the contract for cleaning Network Rail stations

Interserve – one of the UK’s largest providers of public services – has reached a deal with creditors to prevent its collapse.

The rescue plan involves cutting its debts from over £600m to £275m by issuing new shares.

Chief executive Debbie White said it was “a significant step forward in our plans to strengthen the balance sheet”.

Interserve sells services, including probation, cleaning and healthcare, and is involved in construction projects.

“The board believes that this agreement will secure a strong future for Interserve,” Ms White added.

The firm plans to issue £480m worth of new shares, which will be swapped with creditors for debt, leaving existing shareholders with virtually nothing.

Under the rescue deal, Interserve will also keep its most profitable division, its RMD Kwikform construction business, loading £350m of debt onto its balance sheet.

The firm had considered spinning the unit off to its lenders to raise money.

Second rescue deal

This is the second rescue deal for Interserve, with the company refinancing its debt in March last year.

Its troubles have been blamed on cancellations and delays in its construction contracts as well as struggling waste-to-energy projects in Derby and Glasgow.

The firm’s shares have plunged over the past year, currently trading at around 13p each. Just over a year ago, the shares were worth 100p each.

Interserve’s difficulties follow the collapse of Carillion in January 2018, which put thousands of jobs at risk and cost taxpayers £148m.

Following that, the government launched a pilot of “living wills” for contractors, so that critical services can be taken over in the event of a crisis. Interserve is one of five suppliers taking part.

In a separate statement, shareholder Coltrane Master Fund, which holds over a 5% stake in Interserve, has asked the firm to remove eight directors.

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The Interserve rescue deal will leave existing shareholders with virtually nothing

It requested two other individuals be appointed as directors, but reiterated its support for Ms White as chief executive of the outsourcing provider.

What does Interserve do?

From its origins in dredging and construction, the company has diversified into wide range of services, such as health care and catering, for clients in government and industry.

At King George Hospital in east London, for instance, Interserve has a £35m contract for cleaning, security, meals, waste management and maintenance.

Its infrastructure projects include improving the M5 Junction 6 near Worcester, refurbishing the Rotherham Interchange bus station in Yorkshire, and upgrading sewers and water pipes for Northumbrian Water.

But Interserve is also the largest provider of probation services in England and Wales, supervising about 40,000 “medium-low risk offenders” for the Ministry of Justice.