Investor threatens to oust Baltimore board

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The Independent Online

Baltimore Technologies yesterday hit out at its largest shareholder, accusing Acquisitor Holdings of wanting to buy the company on the cheap.

Baltimore Technologies yesterday hit out at its largest shareholder, accusing Acquisitor Holdings of wanting to buy the company on the cheap.

Acquisitor has requisitioned an extraordinary meeting of Baltimore shareholders to oust its entire board and replace it with their own team, it emerged over the weekend.

Baltimore, the former FTSE 100 technology star, which is now a cash shell, condemned the move as "opportunistic". The company, which has sold all its operating businesses, has about £40m of cash and is considering whether to wind itself up or buy other businesses with the money. "This move is opportunistic in seeking to secure control of the company and its assets, without paying a premium to shareholders by making a formal offer for the company," Baltimore said.

Acquisitor, led by David Buchler, a leading City accountant and the vice-chairman of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, will today publicly kick off its campaign by launching a website that will be highly critical of the record of Baltimore's management, especially its chief executive Bijan Khezri.

The shareholder, which has been building up its stake its November, will have to appeal to a disparate investor base at Baltimore, which has no significant institutional holdings. The company has about 50,000 private shareholders, most of which will be nursing big losses on their investment.

Acquisitor has demanded an investigation into what went wrong at Baltimore, especially why it appeared to "buy [companies] at the top of the market and sell at the bottom".

For instance, it paid more than £500m for Content Technologies in October 2000, only to dispose of this business for £20m in January 2002. Baltimore has notched up trading losses of over £1bn. "It is time to call time," said a spokesman for Acquisitor.

Baltimore, which conceded it must agree to the EGM demand, insisted it had already "drawn a line" under its past record and was planning to indicate its future strategy to shareholders at the end of this month. It said: "The board is open to considering any viable alternative plan that Acquisitor has for Baltimore.... To date, no proposals from Acquisitor for the future have been forthcoming."

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