Baltimore apologises for shares claim

Baltimore Technologies, the cash shell which is planning to turn itself into a green energy supplier, was forced to issue an unreserved apology yesterday to its largest shareholder for accusing it of attempting to manipulate the company's share price.

Baltimore Technologies, the cash shell which is planning to turn itself into a green energy supplier, was forced to issue an unreserved apology yesterday to its largest shareholder for accusing it of attempting to manipulate the company's share price.

The company admitted that it had been factually inaccurate when it claimed that the Bermuda-based Acquisitor Holdings had driven down the share price by making critical statements about Baltimore and then used the opportunity to increase its holding.

However, Baltimore said it still intended to pursue a complaint lodged with the Financial Services Authority concerning Acquisitor's purchase of shares following the release of critical comments about the company. Baltimore claims this might amount to market abuse.

Acquisitor responded by launching a fresh broadside against the management of Baltimore and buying yet more shares, taking its holding to just over 16 per cent. Duncan Soukup of Acquisitor said: "We note Baltimore's unreserved apology. However, they have not retracted their central allegation. We are pressing for a full retraction of their statement and damages."

Acquisitor also said it was writing to the board requesting it not to proceed with a £300,000 pay-off for Baltimore's finance director, Denis Kelly, who is due to retire after an extraordinary shareholders' meeting next month.

The meeting has been convened by Acquisitor to vote on a proposal to remove the entire board of Baltimore, including its chairman Bijan Khezri, and replace them with five new directors nominated by Acquisitor.

As the tit-for-tat battle continued yesterday, Acquisitor sought to cast aspersions on David Weaver, the former BP executive hired by Baltimore to become its chief executive. Acquisitor claimed that in one of his former jobs as an executive with the US energy company CMS, Mr Weaver had been involved in the purchase of an Australian electricity and coal business which was subsequently sold at a $600m loss for CMS's shareholders.

Mr Weaver dismissed Acquisitor's claims as "black propaganda". He said the business, Loy Yang, had been bought for less than the banks had valued it at. He also maintained that it was not possible to say that CMS had made a loss based purely on the purchase and selling price.

Acquisitor needs a simple majority of those voting at the meeting on 6 May to depose the board but because the company is owned largely by 45,000 private investors, many of whom own their shares through nominee accounts, the outcome is very difficult to forecast.

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