KiFin heightens row with Minerva over power grab 'rhetoric'

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The Independent Online

KiFin, the investment group backed by South African billionaire Nathan Kirsh, has ratcheted up the row with Minerva, accusing the property group's management of "misleading" other shareholders into believing it wanted to seize control of the company.

Tensions between the two sides have escalated this week after KiFin, which owns 29.5 per cent of Minerva, detailed its resolutions, which include demanding the removal of its chief executive, Salmaan Hasan, and its chairman, Oliver Whitehead. This has prompted a series of claims and counter-claims from both parties as the emergency meeting approaches next month.

KiFin rejected Minerva statements that it was making a power grab for the company. The statement said its interest was aligned "with all shareholders, regardless of the size of their investment, to ensure the right practices and management are in place to unlock the undoubted potential of Minerva". It added that the property group "has continued to mislead you by focusing your attention on our initiative being about gaining control. This rhetoric is a complete red herring." Sources close to Minerva rejected the claims.

Minerva called the emergency meeting earlier in the month to stave off KiFin's challenge. Beyond ousting the chairman and chief executive, the investor wants to elect two new directors and force the company to disclose "vital financial information on the refinancing of its debt".

It said in its original note to all shareholders that it "quite simply is unhappy with the way it is presently run" adding Minerva was in a "perilous state".

Minerva responded this week saying the note contained "a number of factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims" before rejecting all of the investor's statements.

Standard Life Investments, which has a 4.8 per cent stake in Minerva, yesterday threw its weight behind the under-fire company. The investment director Andrew Jackson said: "It is not clear to us that the KiFin-nominated board candidates would act in the best interests of all shareholders. Furthermore, we do not believe that the skills and experience offered by these candidates improve upon those offered by the incumbent directors."