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City firms that hold the key

A new analysis of the latest available share registers of Granada and Forte highlights a potentially novel twist to the takeover bid, writes John Shepherd.

The lists also provide plenty of fuel for debate among fund management teams in City institutions. For the analysis shows that Forte and Granada have 87 common institutional shareholders, controlling 62.66 per cent of Forte's shares.

The largest dual shareholder is Mercury Asset Management with 14.41 per cent of Granada and 13.23 per cent of Forte. Without Mercury's holding, the potential power of the other 86 institutions is reduced to 49.31 per cent control over Forte's fate. By far the most unusual cross-holding is Pilkington. One can only wonder if the fund manager goes by the name of James Bond since the holding in both companies is 0.07 per cent.

With such a large total cross-shareholding it is little wonder that Gerry Robinson, chief executive of Granada, and his teams of advisers have spent a considerable amount of time over last six weeks visiting and revisiting institutions the length and breadth of the British Isles.

The question for the institutions is: will they allow individuals a free vote on the bid or impose a strict house policy? The latter is more common.