Harland Simon investors to meet

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LARGE investors in Harland Simon, the troubled controls systems group, are to meet to discuss what action to take in view of their dissatisfaction with the management.

The company held a presentation for institutional shareholders on Monday, but failed to satisfy them about the complex relationship between Harland Simon and one of its customers, Perfect Information (PIL), in which it has a 63 per cent stake.

Investors have raised questions about transactions between Harland and PIL, the ownership of PIL, and a pounds 500,000 investment in PIL by Harland's pension fund. Harland has repaid the money to the pension fund.

Louise Cawser of CIN said the institutions would meet to discuss possible courses of action, 'hopefully in the next week or so'.

CIN, which manages the British Coal pension funds, is the largest institutional shareholder in Harland, with an 8 per cent stake.

Ms Cawser said she was deeply unhappy with the lack of explanation from the company management regarding PIL. She added that seeking resignations from the board would be one of the issues to be discussed.

'I believe the standards of management really have been appalling, but I'm not entirely sure that replacing the management would necessarily be a wise course,' she said.

She said she would attend the company's presentation to broking analysts next Monday.

Another fund manager who attended last Monday's meeting said there were 'a number of questions to which we still have not received satisfactory answers, particularly about the role of the directors'.

Harland Simon says it has been unable to discover who controls shares in PIL held by Sanford Establissement, a Liechtenstein trust. As a result Harland's accounts will be qualified.

Harland set up PIL, an on-line news-cutting service, in association with Biro Nadir, son of the former Polly Peck chairman Asil Nadir.

No one at Harland or its advisers, Hambros and Hoare Govett, could be contacted for comment.