Close call at Ewart

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BOTH CAMPS in the battle for control of Ewart, the Northern Irish property group, claimed a winning position ahead of an extraordinary meeting on Friday, writes John Murray.

A company source said the two sides were probably evenly balanced with about 45 per cent core support each, but that most of the remaining 10 per cent would go the board's way.

However, Phil Monahan, who is a non-executive director of Ewart, claimed to have the backing of at least 52 per cent of the voting shares for his proposal to remove four members of the board and install two new directors. He controls a 29.2 per cent stake and has irrevocable undertakings of support from holders of a further 10 per cent.

But it emerged at the weekend that Mr Monahan's stake in Ewart - held by Wexford Shopping Centre - was paid for by a loan note which has yet to be redeemed. That would leave Mr Monahan facing a large capital loss when the note is repaid, as the value of the stake has halved since it was bought in 1989.

His fellow directors accuse him of attempting to take over the company without making a bid.