Cash-rich tiddler resists investor bid

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The Independent Online

A row is brewing over cash-rich tiddler Enterprise Asia. Stephen Dean, chief executive of construction group Artisan, plans to take control of the AIM-listed incubator fund and abandon its investments in the Far East. This has provoked an angry response from the fledgling firm's board, which is preparing to fend off the bid

A row is brewing over cash-rich tiddler Enterprise Asia. Stephen Dean, chief executive of construction group Artisan, plans to take control of the AIM-listed incubator fund and abandon its investments in the Far East. This has provoked an angry response from the fledgling firm's board, which is preparing to fend off the bid

Enterprise Asia floated in February, saying it would invest in Asian internet stocks, with Mr Dean as one of its main shareholders. He has 21 per cent of the stock, and is calling for an extraordinary general meeting.

But the Enterprise board accuses Dean of carpet-bagging, while he claims to have been "given the run-around" trying to promote his ideas for the company. His Enterprise Asia stake is valued at some £1.8m, but with about £8m on the company's balance sheet, he could gain effective control at a big discount.

Enterprise Asia director Phill Brownsaid: "When he originally approached us, Stephen Dean said he had some ideas he wanted to discuss about the running of the company, but we have had no strategy from him. He stands to get £8m in cash for only £1.8m in investment. The question is, what does he plan to do with the firm?"

The answer, says Mr Dean, is to stop investing in the Far East and instead target UK-based ventures, for example the Artisan-underwritten Independent Digital Networks, set to launch on AIM tomorrow.

Mr Dean's plans include removing two existing directors and adding three from Artisan.

He said: "We have been trying since May to persuade [the directors] that the strategy they have embarked on will not promote shareholder value.

"Now let's ask the shareholders... If they tell us to clear off, well, that's the way democracy works."

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