Whittaker enjoys rise in UK Coal portfolio

UK Coal, the mining and property group in which John Whittaker's Peel Holdings holds a 24.5% stake, today reported that an uplift in agricultural land values had countered the general downturn to increase the value of its property portfolio by £20m.

Peel appointed a representative to the UK Coal board last autumn but has always denied rumours it plans to launch a bid for the group. UK Coal wants to more than double the value of its portfolio to £1bn by 2013.

This morning's trading statement for six months to the end of June said: "Whilst we remain cautious about the property market, given the general turbulence in the sector, we expect to show a further modest uplift in RICS property valuations in the second half, with planning progress and agricultural land rises continuing to offset the market problems. The current turmoil in the housebuilding sector does not immediately affect us since most of our regeneration projects are long term and the structural shortage of land for housing in the UK underpins long term demand."

Net debt was in line with expectations at £145m up from £104m at the end of last year.

Shares in the company were down slightly, by 3.5p, at 496.5p, valuing the business at £785m, and Peel's share at £192m.

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