The KPNQwest saga hit a new and farcical low on Friday, as the Dutch courts backed the refusal of the banks in the case to hand over cash collected by the administrators expressly to run the network till the end of June.
This made a mockery of the drama two weeks ago when administrators set a deadline for customers to stump up for June's service -- it turns out that the banks simply hung onto that money, and it did not reach the network.
The Ebone part of KPNQwest's network still has money to operate, but some of its customers are drifting away, according to Graham Kinsey, convenor of the network centre workers. "We have 75 percent of our customers, but that will decrease over time," he said.
"The banks are playing a dangerous game," said Kinsey, of the banks' determination to hang onto what is believed to be around 20 million euros, which the administrators collected last week explicitly to keep the network running till the end of June. "They are slowly suffocating us."
By cutting off the slim lifeline of the network, they may shut it down entirely, cause its customers to all move away, and deprive themselves of around 200 million that might still be raised by selling it as a going concern. "A steelworks can stop, and then be started up again again," said Kinsey. "A service company cannot stop and start up again."
No more information has emerged about the bids considered by the banks, though it appears that the sums offered are not as large as the banks were hoping for. A consortium reportedly made a bid for the Ebone portion only on Wednesday, which was rejected, because the banks are still pushing to sell the network as one piece.