Birmingham Midshires seeks to change rules on votes

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The Independent Online
BIRMINGHAM Midshires, the building society at the centre of a two-way bid battle, is seeking to change its rules on voting by its members just months before they are due to vote on a proposal to convert to a bank.

The society, whose members will be offered approximately pounds 600 each if they approve a pounds 630m offer by Royal Bank of Scotland, is pressing for a change that would stop members at its meetings from deciding on votes to adjourn.

Instead, the board could insist on a poll of every single one of its 1.1 million members in order to adjourn meetings. Current rules allow a meeting to be adjourned by a simple show of hands.

The rule change is proposed in a document sent to members outlining the agenda for an annual general meeting set for 29 April. A special general meeting to vote on the RBS bid is set for the summer.

The document makes repeated mention of the RBS bid but makes no mention of a rival, higher bid from Halifax, which is proposing pounds 780m for the society. If the Halifax offer goes through, members are likely to receive windfalls worth about pounds 150 more than RBS's.

The proposal follows an announcement by Save Our Building Societies, a campaigning group, that it has recruited 150 members who are opposed to a flotation of Birmingham Midshires.

Bob Goodall, co-ordinator of Save Our Building Societies, said: "We think what they are afraid of is that people could vote against adjourning a meeting. Adjourning a meeting would be a device to bring into play big resources to lobby members. They want a device to bring the big guns to bear."