Barr rebels win key support

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The Independent Online
REBEL shareholders at Barr & Wallace Arnold Trust were given a boost last night when another large shareholder pledged them his support.

Kerry Firth, a Barnsley businessman who controls 16 per cent of the voting shares, said he supported Robert and Nicholas Barr, the brothers who last Friday called an extraordinary general meeting to replace their uncle Malcolm as chairman of the transport and motor distribution group.

'Supporting Nicholas and Robert is the only way shareholders have of unlocking the true value of their shares,' Mr Firth said.

With 29 per cent under their control, the brothers now appear able to count on 45 per cent of the voting shares.

However, a spokesman for the company said the struggle for control was far from over. 'It is early days,' he said.

The row at B&WAT centres on the strategic future of the company. Malcolm Barr and his executive team led by John Parker, formerly of Kosset Carpets, have sold non-core property and vehicle leasing divisions to fund the development of the Wallace Arnold coach and holidays company, and the motor distribution business.

They appear to have met with some success: recent results showed profits up 40 per cent and shares have risen by a third in 18 months.

However, the brothers and Mr Firth believe the company remains significantly under- valued in the City because investors are confused by the combination of two unrelated businesses in one company.

The brothers wish to divide the company into two, enfranchise the non-voting shares and introduce a more restrained management style.

'We are just trying to maximize the value of our shares by installing quality management,' Nicholas Barr said.