Cardpoint finance chief under pressure to step down

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The Independent Online

The finance director of Cardpoint, Robin Gregson, is under pressure from some of its big shareholders to step down in the wake last week's stinging profits warning.

Cardpoint shares plunged more than 40 per cent last Tuesday after the country's biggest operator of fee-charging cash machines revealed that profits next year would fall shy of expectations. The company blamed problems integrating Moneybox, the competitor it swallowed for £87m earlier this year.

Cardpoint accused Moneybox's previous management of drawing up "optimistic" budgets and said that 1,000 of the 2,700 UK cash machines it scooped in the deal would need to be scrapped or relocated.

Major shareholders point out that Cardpoint had access to Moneybox's books and should have picked up on any unrealistic forecasts before buying the company. They remain deeply unhappy with the abruptness of last week's warning. As recently as the end of September, Cardpoint delivered an upbeat picture of prospects to analysts.

Cardpoint's new chairman, Michael Hepher, can expect a phone call from at least one institutional shareholder this week calling for Mr Gregson to go.

A Cardpoint spokesman said: "Results for 2005 met expectations. The market's forecasts for 2006 were cut after short-term problems were identified in integrating Moneybox. Those could only be unearthed once the process was well underway."

Cardpoint's founder and chief executive Mark Mills explained to shareholders in hastily convened talks last week that the problems with Moneybox had yet to be discovered when he sold 750,000 shares at 138p in August. On Tuesday, they crashed to just 72p.

The City is now looking to Cardpoint's directors to start rebuilding trust in the company by buying shares this week.

Cardpoint's major shareholders include Artemis, Gartmore, Perpetual, Jupiter and Friends Provident, among others.

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