Mix-up over BT partly-paid sales

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The Independent Online
BT shareholders who want to sell their stock partly-paid may have some difficulty in finding a bank or a broker to do it for them because of a misunderstanding between the Treasury and the Stock Exchange over the deadline for selling shares .

Although most of the 1.7 million stockholders will want to pay the third instalment of pounds 1.05, a minority will want to sell. Shareholders have until 19 February to do this - although some of the banks may not be offering the service next week.

Yesterday afternoon most of the big banks were preparing to close their doors to partly-paid shareholders who wanted to sell. They were under the misapprehension that partly-paid stocks could no longer be traded. However, after frantic meetings at the Stock Exchange and the Treasury, it emerged that they had set their deadline a week too early.

The deadline - as stated on the share certificate issued by the Treasury - is next Friday. But some brokers, including some of the banks, had interpreted a Stock Exchange guidance note as saying that the deadline fell yesterday.

Staff at Midland, NatWest and Lloyds branches and at Birmingham-based ShareLink, said yesterday that they would not process partly-paid certificates for sale after this weekend. But last night their head offices were understood to be urgently contacting them to postpone the deadline until next Friday.

And while the stockbroking arm of Lloyds was giving a 12 February deadline, its registrars, who are handling the BT shares, were giving a 19 February deadline.

The Share Centre, in Tring, Hertfordshire, is expecting to receive many share certificates before it closes its doors on partly- paid sales next Friday.

For people who want to keep their shares, the deadline for getting their cheques for the third and final instalment to the Lloyds Registrars is Thursday 25 February. If they miss that deadline, they will still be liable for the third instalment.

Shareholders who do nothing will find that their shares are confiscated by the Treasury and pounds 2.15 per share returned - representing a loss on their investment of about 70 pence per share.

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