The seeds of Eurotunnel’s debt problems were sown in 1986 when then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got French President Francois Mitterrand to agree that the project be funded only by private investors before the contract to build and operate it was awarded. Cost overruns and overly optimistic revenue projections meant shareholders lost out. One French investor expressed her anger. She said: “I was counting on the return on capital for my old age and now there’s nothing. How would I not be angry?”
The shareholders are feisty as well as angry. They voted out the entire Eurotunnel board of directors at the 2004 annual general meeting. They would have to vote to approve any debt restructuring that is finally agreed and even then they would get little return. The current debt restructuring plan leaves them to owning just 13% of the company.