Dilemma of the little shareholder

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SOME portfolios can end up holding a small number of shares that are worth less than the dealing costs of selling them.

This can happen when shareholders opt to have their dividends paid in extra shares rather than income or when they are given warrants, which give them the option of buying shares at a later date.

When shareholders come to sell up their holdings, they will often find that stockbrokers will only accept share sales in multiples of a hundred, leaving the seller holding on to tiny numbers of shares.

This happened to Ron Sims, who was left holding two Cable and Wireless shares, which he had opted to take rather than accept a dividend. The shares were valued at just over pounds 5 each. Then another two came along from another dividend.

He hunted around for a solution to the problem, hoping to find a charity that would benefit from them.

'Eventually NatWest took them off my hands and I ended up with pounds 15.32 after costs.'

Mr Sims could have approached Cable and Wireless's own broker, Cazenove, which will put through small numbers of scrip dividends on the next available deal, free of its normal 1 per cent commission, up to a certain number.

Another way is through a new service offered by Brown Shipley Stockbroking, which has linked up with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to let people transfer unwanted shares quoted on the Stock Exchange directly to the charity.

Russell Pendse, client executive with Brown Shipley Stockbroking, said: 'Clients can make a charitable donation without having to write out a cheque. They can tidy up their portfolios without having to sell stocks and shares in the market.'

Brown Shipley, 30-31 Friar Street, Reading, RG1 1AH. Tel: 0734 595511.

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