Hemscott snaps up US rival in reverse buyout

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The Independent Online

Hemscott, the online financial information group chaired by the BBC's chairman Michael Grade, acquired a US rival and a new majority shareholder yesterday in a move aimed at cracking the world's biggest financial market.

Hemscott, the online financial information group chaired by the BBC's chairman Michael Grade, acquired a US rival and a new majority shareholder yesterday in a move aimed at cracking the world's biggest financial market.

It is buying CoreData for £7.3m in cash and shares in a deal that will see it fall under the control of a US venture capital group. Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which owns CoreData through an affiliate, will get a 34 per cent stake in Hemscott as part of the deal - but has also launched a partial offer for a further 10 million shares in the UK group to take its shareholding to 54 per cent.

The partial offer, worth 55p per share, values Hemscott at about £27m. Shares in the UK company surged 20 per cent to 48.5p yesterday.

Ros Wilton, Hemscott's chief executive, has agreed to forfeit her annual £200,000 salary for 12 months in return for a cash-and-options package that was worth £495,000, based on last night's closing price. Her payout includes options over 722,225 shares, exercisable at 5p per share, and a £100,000 cash bonus. The change of control also triggers an £80,000 payout for Ms Wilton, although she will not be entitled to any other bonuses for the year to 31 December 2004.

Along with two other executives - Stephen Roche and Simon Ashdown - Ms Wilton will receive options over 4 million shares in the enlarged group. Their existing options package, over 1.6 million shares, has lapsed.

Until now, Hemscott has been controlled by the New Zealand investor Dairy Brands, renamed Finmedia, which after the transaction will retain about 20 per cent. Finmedia has agreed to waive the provision that normally forces any shareholder owning more than 30 per cent into launching a full takeover offer.

Separately, Hemscott said its interim pre-tax losses had narrowed to £192,000 from £616,000. It said its trading environment remained "challenging".

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