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Patientline looks for debt help

Nice time to be raising money

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Patientline, which provides telephone and TV services to patients in UK hospitals, is looking for ways to ease the burden of its £80m debt pile.

Given the current credit crisis in world markets, this may prove difficult.

Patientline today released an Interim Management Statement for the period from 1 April 2007 to 17 August 2007 ahead of the company's Annual General Meeting on 27 September.

The statement says management are still looking for ways to sort out the company's debts. It has decided that a sale of assets to NHS Trusts or the Department of Health is "unlikely to result in material reductions to the company's bank debt. Other ideas for the reconstruction of this debt are being explored".

The company raised its charges in April 2007, but adverse publicity forced it to reduce prices in August. Outgoing calls went up to 26 pence a minute, this was cut back to 10 pence a minute in August. But incoming phone calls are still charged at an eye-watering 49 pence a minute.

Revenues to 27 July, the first four months of Patientline's financial year, fell 21 per cent, which it blamed on adverse publicity from its price rises.

Revenues from patients fell from 75 pence per day in 2006 to 71 pence per day in the same four months of 2007. Revenues from friends and family (incoming call revenue) fell from 88 pence in 2006 to 61 pence in 2007.

The statement ends: "The board is continuing to work to reduce the cost base of the business. The board remains confident that these cost savings and the sales initiatives will result in positive cash flow for the year."

Patientline shares rose today to 1.8 pence, down from a year high of 9.5 pence. ®

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