Abdullah seeks shake-up at Water Hall

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Raschid Abdullah, best-known for turning around a small engineering company in the 1980s into a mini-conglomerate called Evered before being forced out after a boardroom split, yesterday immersed himself in a new battle for boardroom change.

Mr Abdullah has requisitioned a shareholders' meeting at Water Hall, a quarrying group, at which he is proposing the removal of Edward Weiss, the chairman, and the appointment of a supporter, Anthony Smith, as a director of the company.

With the support of shares held by a Saudi company, Elkheriji Trading & Electronics Corporation, Raschid and his brother Osman, both former executive directors of the group, hold the necessary 10 per cent of the shares needed to requisition such a meeting.

They may also, though not definitely, enjoy the support of two other Arab investor groupings that could take their percentage of the paid-up capital to 45 per cent. A clear majority is needed for Mr Abdullah's proposal to go through. As part of the fight-back Mr Weiss, a former finance director of Chubb, has threatened to approach the Takeover Panel. He says he is considering approaching the Panel to see whether Mr Abdullah, in calling for a change in the composition of the board, is not reneging on assurances he and his brother gave shareholders as part of a financial reconstruction of the company last year.

"There are issues here which should be brought to the attention of the Takeover Panel," Mr Weiss said yesterday.

In essence, Mr Abdullah considers the group should now pull out of its traditional quarrying and land-fill business and move into a new business.

However, Mr Weiss says: "Why should we sell something when we do not know what to buy? I do not think anything has happened to make us change the policies which we spelt out a year ago at our extraordinary shareholders' meeting."

Water Hall was born out of a financial reconstruction that repaired the finances of Star- min, the quarrying group of which Messrs Raschid and Osman were executive directors until their resignations in July 1993.

In the listing particulars accompanying a financial reconstruction at the beginning of last year the group committed itself to the quarrying and land-fill business. They stated: "The Water Hall Farm Complex will now become the main activity of the Group."

Mr Weiss argues that Mr Abdullah approved this statement and should now support the board, especially in the light of an improving financial performance.