Fight for control of Minerva gets nasty as EGM date approaches

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The Independent Online

The row between property group Minerva and its biggest shareholder, KiFin escalated yesterday when the company hit back at its rebel investor, accusing it of making factually inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims to other backers ahead of next month’s emergency general meeting.

KiFin, backed by the billionaire South African Nathan Kirsh, owns 29.5 per cent of Minerva and is calling for the removal of its chief executive, Salmaan Hasan, and chairman, Oliver Whitehead.

It says that the company has been left in a "perilous state," having been run for five years "without any meaningful ownership, not to mention the company's inadequate financial reporting and hype about profits, which does not in any way reflect the fact that there is insufficient cash flow, the life-blood that the company needs in order to survive." Specifically, KiFin says that it is concerned that Minerva has little cashflow and that it is impossible to give a true picture of its value without letting its blue ribbon project, the Walbrook in the City of London.

KiFin, which earlier this year had a 50p-a-share bid for Minerva rejected, insists that it is not intent on taking control of the business, and has pledged to keep its holding in the group at its current levels, but warns that it will not support any new fund raising with the current management team in place.

The company hit back yesterday, accusing KiFin of trying to take control of the company. In a statement, it said: "The announcement by KiFin contains a number of factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims about Minerva. "The board entirely rejects KiFin's statements that Minerva is in a 'perilous state', its financial reporting is 'inadequate' and that there has been 'hype about profits'. All of these claims are entirely without merit."

Defending Minerva's record, Mr Hasan last month said: "KiFin has seen a 400 per cent return on its investment in the past 18 months. Frankly, we regard this as tedious and when shareholders see our proposals we are confident that they back the board."

The group's non-executives have backed the Minerva management, with its senior independent director, John Matthews, saying that KiFin's approach was unwelcome. "It is clear to the board that the true purpose of KiFin's resolutions is, without any payment to shareholders, to advance its attempts to control Minerva."

Shares in Minerva fell 4 per cent yesterday to close at 90p.