Ferranti offer wins 28% of institutions: Small shareholders need 10% of vote to scotch GEC's 1p-a-share proposal

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The Independent Online
INSTITUTIONAL investors representing 28.6 per cent of shares in Ferranti have so far supported GEC's offer for the defence electronics company, writes Russell Hotten.

Institutional backing was expected and Eugene Anderson, Ferranti's chief executive, knows he still has a lot of persuading to do before shareholders vote on 8 December.

GEC has said its 1p-a-share offer will lapse without the support of 90 per cent of shareholders. Mr Anderson, who has described the offer as guaranteed to irritate shareholders, expects the vote to be close.

Institutions to have pledged their support, unless a higher offer emerges, include Phillips & Drew Fund Management, GRE, Prudential, Postel, Electra Investment and the Co-op Insurance Society. As well as representing 28.6 per cent of ordinary shares they hold 20.6 per cent of the special shares.

GEC is offering about pounds 10.1m for the ordinary shares and pounds 1.29m for the prefs. But it will also take on about pounds 110m of bank debts and a further pounds 30m owed to creditors.

Institutional investors account for about 60 per cent of Ferranti shares. About 8,000 small shareholders hold 30 per cent of the votes, and a further 40,000 the rest.

John Katz, chairman of the Ferranti Shareholders' Support Association, must win 10 per cent of the vote to claim victory. He said yesterday that shareholders representing 2.2 per cent had pledged to oppose the offer. 'We have never attempted to win over the institutions; never approached them. We are confident we can get at least 10 per cent of private shareholders to vote with us.'

Mr Katz is trying to muster political support in the hope that he can build a case for putting Ferranti into administration.

Eugene Anderson has said that the alternative to accepting the offer is receivership, resulting in the loss of far more jobs than under GEC's control.

The banks have told the company they oppose administration, although Mr Katz believes the strength of public opinion may persuade them to change their minds.