GUS holds fast to demerger plans

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GUS insisted yesterday it would not be swayed from its plans to demerge Argos and Experian, despite private equity groups still circling, as some shareholders criticised the prospect of lower dividends from the separated companies.

Speaking after GUS's last annual meeting in its current form, its finance director David Tyler brushed aside speculation KKR and Blackstone would table a credible bid for Argos and Experian.

"We're intending to give our shares not to anybody else but our shareholders," he said, adding the board was "not expecting" anything to derail its demerger plans. "We think shareholders will do best by having the shares themselves," he said.

Some private investors spoke out against GUS's plans to do the splits this October, ending more than a century of retailing history. "I'm sorry to see it go," said Hilary Temple, adding that GUS was the first stock she had ever bought.

Mr Diamond, another private investor, said: "Perhaps there are shareholders who, like me, regret the proposed demerger." He highlighted the likely 20 per cent cut in dividend income for investors retaining shares in both companies. Experian has signalled it will pay lower dividends once it is free from GUS, keeping money back to invest in its business.

Sir Victor Blank, GUS's chairman, said he suspected there were "many regrets" about breaking up the home shopping group founded by Sir Isaac Wolfson in 1900.