Key M&S investor sells more shares

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The Independent Online

The US institutional investor that could determine whether Philip Green presses ahead with his £8.4bn attempt to acquire Marks & Spencer has sold a further stake in the retailer worth £6.6m, it emerged yesterday.

Brandes Investment Partners, the San Diageo-based fund management group, has continued to chip away at its holding in M&S over the past few weeks, yesterday announcing that it had sold 1.6 million of the company's US-listed shares at $6.59 a share.

The share deal took Brandes's holding to 11.84 per cent. It owned 12.9 per cent of the retailer just two weeks ago. Brandes - the target of Mr Green's current charm offensive - also sold a line of 192,000 American depository receipts in M&S. The price of M&S shares slipped 4.25p at 358p yesterday.

Observers doubt whether Mr Green's camp has managed to persuade Brandes' senior analyst, Amelia Morris, of the merits of its 370p-per-share approach, which M&S dismissed last week.

Mr Green's advisers maintained yesterday that they hoped to have sounded out all three of M&S's US investors by the end of the week. Several of the group's UK shareholders have declared their support for the M&S board, leading some analysts to predict that Mr Green will abandon his bid attempt.

Separately, it emerged yesterday that John Readman, the property director at Mr Green's Arcadia Group, owns 20,000 shares in M&S. He bought the stock on 15 January, the day after M&S shocked the City with poor Christmas trading figures. M&S flushed out his holding as part of its campaign to discover who owns its stock. It has also issued a "section 212" notice to Richard Caring, Mr Green's close friend and chief supplier. But Mr Caring has yet to declare whether he has any interest in M&S shares.