Small Talk: Court case may be the only way forward at Easier

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The Independent Online

Suspicions were raised when Brian Copsey, the Fulton executive who tabled the offer at June's extraordinary meeting of Easier shareholders, consistently evaded questions from those investors present. He failed to say who would be advising Fulton on the deal, when it would be publishing Easier's accounts (the Fulton-controlled board is yet to put out accounts for 2003 and 2004) and, most important of all, where Easier's £5.4m cash pile can be found.

Since then, there has been some progress. Fulton has asked GSC Solicitors and BR Corporate Finance to work on the deal but all this is too little, too late for Easier's dissident shareholders. Led by the entrepreneur Neville Buch, who controls 9 per cent of the company, and Gilbert Chalk, they have repeatedly tried to end Fulton's control of the company. They had accepted Fulton's 22p-a-share buyout proposal - which valued the company in line with its cash pile - but set a final deadline of 5pm last Friday for the offer.

No proposal was forthcoming and the dissidents will apply to the High Court today to convene an extraordinary meeting to remove the Fulton executives, led by Mr Copsey, from Easier's board. On Friday, the messages coming from the Fulton side were confused. Mr Copsey told Small Talk that the offshore investment firm had the financing in place for the buyout, while its solicitors, GSC, said that the financing was not in place.

Throughout this whole saga, Fulton has persistently used delaying tactics to prevent Easier's shareholders from finding out where their £5.4m of cash is. At June's EGM - called by the dissidents to end Fulton's stranglehold on Easier - the investment firm held on to control of the board via a last-minute coup which saw its executives resign from the company but appoint fresh Fulton directors in their place. This scuppered the dissidents' resolutions.

Therefore, it seems that the most likely way the whole drama at Easier will be resolved is by Mr Buch, with the help of the courts, taking control of the company and then returning its cash back to shareholders.

MKM to raise cash

Today will see MKM unveil a much-needed fund raising. The company, which organises travel promotions, will announce that it plans to raise £1.2m via a placing and open offer of new shares at 5p. Of that total, Mark and Victor Koch, the brothers behind MKM, will put up £350,000, signalling their confidence that the company has a future. Also subscribing to the issue is Sound Financial, a company run by the entrepreneur David Mond. It will invest £550,000 and Mr Mond is set to become a non-executive of MKM once the deal is complete.

It is no secret that without the new money, MKM would have gone to the wall. It intends to use some of the fresh cash to settle a dispute with Express Newspapers after its "cruises for £10" promotion with the paper went disastrously wrong. The remainder will be used to invest in new IT systems and for general working capital purposes. Given that MKM floated last year at 44p, investors will be hoping that a renaissance is now on the way.

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