The teetering trifecta of MFS, Allco and Centro – which between them unfortunately account for more than a dozen different listed securities – are continuing to provide plenty of action as they sink under a truckload of debt and the bad smell of destroyed reputations.

We were reportedly going to hear about Centro’s restructuring plans today but there was nothing by midday, although Centro Retail Trust was up 1.5c to 26c and Centro Properties gained 6.5c to 42c on expectations they may be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat.

The extraordinary truth about the huge MFS debt position was finally laid out in detail yesterday but the stock remains suspended as CVC – the Citibank-affiliated private equity mob which today closed The Bulletin – attempts to snaffle the Stella travel business for a fire-sale price.

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Earlier talk of an enterprise value of $2.2 billion for these 15,000 hotel beds is just a mirage now and it just goes to show that bad things happen to people who own the Sheraton Mirage at Port Douglas. Christopher Skase went broke and fled to Spain, Brian Ray died in a 2005 plane crash and now MFS is attempting to flog its half share for a song.

Alan Bond used to claim that he would have survived if the greedy banks hadn’t seized assets and sold them in a fire-sale and you can just imagine former MFS managing director Michael King saying the same thing.

I went to the HFA Holdings AGM in November and was told MFS couldn’t sell its 12% stake in the hedge fund which manages $9 billion because it was in escrow.

Lo and behold, they’ve just dumped it for a song, which looks pretty unfortunate given the way HFA’s funds, as opposed to the plunging shares in the fund manager, have dramatically out-performed the markets in recent weeks, if you can believe this statement.

HFA shares have recovered 9c to $1.23 and does appear to be separated from the messy MFS web. The same can’t be said for MFS Leisure and Living which remains suspended and MFS Diversified, which provided this explanation of its MFS relationship yesterday, but still plunged 9c to 58c this morning.

The most interesting member of the teetering trio is Allco Finance Group which has today recovered 52c to $2.73 in heavy trading of 16 million shares.

Executive chairman David Coe has been margin called to the tune of 10 million shares but the trade yesterday was done by Babcock & Brown’s house broker Tricom, sparking talk one financial engineer may be helping out another.

Allco founder John Kinghorn has also reportedly been buying and given that he’s got $600 million in RAMs cash sitting in the bank, the lad could conceivably bail out his mates.

Coe and his fellow executives are seeking a standstill agreement with their bankers on their remaining shares and that’s when you start asking questions about whether Rubicon founder and Allco director Gordon Fell will be able to keep that $30 million Point Piper mansion he bought last year.

Check out the MFS package and Allco package on the Mayne Report.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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