Claims Direct hopes to flush out bids

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The Independent Online

Independent directors of Claims Direct hope that yesterday's heavily discounted offer for the personal injury claims company by its two founders will flush out higher bids from other interested parties.

The company's independent board members and other senior employees are believed to have been angered by the offer, which was formally tabled yesterday by Tony Sullman and Colin Poole.

Mr Sullman and Mr Poole, formerly the company's chairman and chief executive, have offered 10p a share for Claims Direct, which is just 6 per cent of its 180p flotation price a year ago. Claims Direct is thought to have recently received several approaches for the business. One company insider said: "We had early-stage discussions with a number of companies, including financiers and insurers, wanting to get into this part of the market."

Yesterday's formal offer came as a shock to other senior executives at Claims Direct, who believed that the proposal was likely to be at 16p, the company's share price at the beginning of last week. Yesterday the shares continued to fall, closing 0.75p lower at 11.75p. The Claims Direct employee added: "There was a board meeting last Monday at which the two said they were not going to offer premium, but we thought that meant they were going to offer the share price at the time. What has happened is very irritating."

David Hickey and David Hankinson, Claims Direct's independent directors, yesterday issued a statement to "strongly urge shareholders to take no action at this stage". If Mr Sullman and Mr Poole succeed, they will have to pay out only £11.1m for the company as they already own or speak for a total of 43 per cent of the shares.

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