Canary Wharf investors in U-turn over sale

LEADING INVESTORS in Canary Wharf Group performed an embarrassing U-turn yesterday, abandoning Monday's bid to offload 7.4 per cent of the venture.

Sources close to the pounds 213m deal said it collapsed as the sellers would not undertake to withhold further share sales, casting a pall over the company's stock market prospects.

Rumours had swirled through the market that the sellers' entire stakes were being lined up for liquidation, making a sale impossible.

The reversal did not reflect well on Credit Suisse First Boston, the deal's would-be sole bookrunner and joint lead manager.

On Monday, the bank said the secondary offering would be wrapped up in a few days. CSFB's original announcement contained erroneous information, including banks not included in the syndicate. The release was later amended.

The debacle hurt Canary Wharf shares, which fell 21.5p to 362.5p. Since Friday, the last trading day before the sale was unveiled, the shares have dropped 7.2 per cent.

The other joint lead managers were Morgan Stanley International and Cazenove & Co, which declined to comment. The move to sell the 50.7 million shares came as the lock-up period following the business's float last March expires tomorrow.

CSFB gave no details yesterday beyond a terse statement that: "The vendors have decided not to proceed with the share offering."

Nan Rogers, analyst at Charterhouse Securities, said it seemed there was a "difficulty securing commitments that there would be no further sales".

Under the failed plan, subsidiaries of RNA Financial Corporation were to sell 20 million shares; entities connected with the Glick family, 10 million; and groups related to New York banker Edmond Safra, 10.1 million.

Other shareholders were offering 9.9 million shares and the company's management 700,000 shares.

Among the sellers was Peter Andersen, Canary Wharf finance director, who is understood to need funds to buy a property.

Canary Wharf Group was at pains to distance itself from the scuppered deal, despite the fact that the move had been justified, in part, as meeting the company's aim of expanding Canary Wharf's free floatation.

George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf chief executive, told reporters: "This is an issue between the shareholders and the stockbroker, it is not an issue between the company and the shareholders."

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