Myerson turns up heat on Kenwood

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Brian Myerson and Julian Treger, the aggressive South African investment entrepreneurs, yesterday revealed the start of a campaign to force Kenwood Applicances to put itself up for sale.

Criticising the management team at Kenwood for its failure to enhance shareholder value, the two men, along with an unnamed partner, said they would seek an extraordinary general meeting to propose that the company "hold discussions with interested parties with a view to soliciting an offer ... on the most advantageous terms."

The move marks the second time in as many weeks that Active Value Fund, backed by Messrs Myerson and Treger, have put pressure on what they term underperforming companies. Last week, they asked Greycoat, the property developer, to call a shareholders' meeting to consider liquidating its pounds 500m property portfolio, which includes Embankment Place, the development near London's Charing Cross station.

Kenwood, which makes domestic appliances including its trademark food mixers, has seen its shares underperform the domestic appliance sector. According to AVF, the management "has failed to convince the market it has a clear strategy to restore the company's fortunes and share price performance". They accused the company of failing "to address its inefficient cost structure" and of damaging the credibility of the management team that recommended a rights issue recently pitched at 310p.

AVF bought shares in Kenwood starting in August of this year, at around 200p a share. It now holds about 9 per cent of the company. The shares closed last week at 242p, a rise that AVF attributed to its role as a key shareholder.

Mr Myerson and Mr Treger said yesterday: "It is time for a change. The current management should acknowledge Kenwood needs to be part of a larger group. The drive for shareholder value must begin."

Tim Beech, Kenwood's managing director, is expected to resist the proposal to sell the company, arguing that the current management has already developed plans to improve Kenwood's performance.

AVF routinely invests in underperforming UK companies, and has annoyed many management teams by its aggressive calls for change. The fund has invested pounds 130m in UK firms, on behalf of high net-worth individuals and a range of investment funds in the US.