Andrew Scott, the chief executive of troubled shopping centre owner Centro Properties Group has resigned and will be replaced by the head of the group’s US business, Glenn Rufrano. The news didn’t mollify nervy investors who sold off the company’s shares by around 25%, or 22c, to a low of 64c just after 11.30am.

Also worrying to Centro Properties investors was the suggestion in another ASX statement today that its short term liabilities may be more than previously thought.

“Centro has initiated a review of its classification of current versus non current liabilities in its audited 30 June 2007 accounts, as it now considers there is a prospect that the proportion of current liabilities may have been higher than that reported. The total amount of reported debt of $3,604 million is unaffected,” said the company.

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No figure was given.

Mr Scott will assist Centro as a consultant until March 31.  In a statement, Centro said Mr Scott would receive a payment of $1.5 million, which included accrued salary and other entitlements to date, and will become entitled to a further $1.5 million on March 31

Centro Retail Trust, the linked shopping mall operator, also revealed in a statement to the ASX that it still owed $1.2 billion that was due on February 15, but that debt owed by December 2008 had almost doubled from $700 million to $1.3 billion.

That news saw Centro Retail securities plunge by a third, or 19c, to 39.5c just after 11.30am, after touching a low of 37c when the trading halt was lifted.

Centro also said it was hopeful its lenders will extend the refinancing period for $1.2 billion of maturing debt it has had trouble rolling over beyond February 15. But the company didn’t offer the market anything concrete.

It added that there had been “extensive” interest in its business from investors since announcing a strategic review.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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