Gold Coast property group, Raptis, has joined ABC Learning Centres in suspension while its future is being sorted out.

ABC’s future is up in the air as auditors, directors and advisers argue over asset values, accounts and previously asserted profits from prior years, while Raptis has run out of money and is looking to find a bit more.

Raptis joins the like of City Pacific and MFS/Octaviar in failing as the credit crunch and property downturn bite them.

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Raptis has taken longer than City Pacific and MFS/Octaviar to strike trouble, but this week it ran aground when one of its financiers, the HBOS Australia arm, Capital Finance Australia appointed receivers to four Raptis “entities” associated with the $700 million Southport Central project on the Gold Coast.

That project appears to be one third sold, and two thirds partly completed.

Raptis lost $14 million in the year to June after being forced to make a $20 million write-down in the fair value of its assets. It had $496 million in current assets, property and apartments, against around $US660 million of interest bearing debt and total debt of $US770 million. Directors said in the report they could only keep going with the support of its bankers. The banks included NAB, ANZ, Westpac, St George and Capital Finance.

Today the board asked the ASX to suspended the shares for two to four weeks to allow negotiations to continue for a capital injection. The company had asked for a two day suspension on Wednesday of this week, but a hoped for resolution wasn’t forthcoming.

Raptis said this morning that the group was negotiating with potential partners in a number of its other development projects for a funding injection. Raptis said in the letter to the ASX that partners were being sourced for the Hilton Surfers Paradise Hotel and Residences development project, the Sheraton Mirage Hotel was on the market, the Iluka development site was for sale or joint venture, and other smaller holdings of development assets were subject to sale negotiations.

Raptis expects to take two to four weeks to resolve the negotiations. Raptis shares last traded at 40 cents, down from a year high of $1.25.

But it’s not the first time Raptis and its founder, Jim Raptis, have struck trouble. They fell over in 1991 in the last bad recession, but came back in the recovery that followed. Certainly Raptis has a big fan in the Rupert Murdoch-owned Gold Coast Bulletin which this week editorialised in his favour.

No doubt Raptis has spent a lot of money with the Bulletin over the years advertising its Gold Coast developments, but there was no admission of that self interest in this gush.

Broadbeach was reborn as a new night-life hub following completion of the Phoenician, while Chevron Renaissance was aptly named for marking the beginning of a new era for Surfers Paradise.

Similarly, Southport Central, which is at the core of Raptis Group’s current woes, is also destined to leave a legacy of renewal that will last for decades.

This latest crisis is nothing new to Mr Raptis, who has ploughed through many property cycles.

The ‘for sale’ sign has gone up on the Sheraton Mirage, the company has just sold its share of the Gold Coast International hotel and development plans for the Iluka have been put on hold.

While he may be downsizing in the wake of the credit crunch, there is no diminishing his mark on the city.

Downsizing is a nice way of saying, going, going … ? If his banks haven’t supported him, who will at a price at which the banks can be paid out?

No mention of the credit crunch and the fact that there is billions of dollars of property on the market, with the likes of GPT, Mirvac, Centro, Stockland, MFS/Octaviar, City Pacific and a host of smaller companies and builders looking to sell property on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, around Sydney and other parts of Australia (and the US in the case of Centro).

If the Gold Coast Bulletin thinks Raptis is merely “downsizing” the writer of the editorial should get out more often and read a bit more widely.

And Mr Raptis himself seems to be in denial. This is what he told the Bulletin this morning

THE national exposure given to the Raptis Group’s receivership has flushed out a number of potential new partners for the company.

“It’s probably put us on the radar,” said company chairman Jim Raptis yesterday.

He said the news had flushed out several players who had expressed interest in undertaking work with Raptis on some of its projects.

Sharks and vultures more like it, looking for a deal to benefit them and not Raptis, its other creditors and shareholders.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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