Laura Ashley chairman hit by investor revolt

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The Independent Online

Shareholders in Laura Ashley showed their mettle yesterday by delivering a sizeable protest vote against the re-election of Dr Khoo Kay Peng, the retailer's chairman, and three other non-executive directors.

Shareholders in Laura Ashley showed their mettle yesterday by delivering a sizeable protest vote against the re-election of Dr Khoo Kay Peng, the retailer's chairman, and three other non-executive directors.

Investors were rebelling against the impartiality of the directors - none of whom comply with the City code's guidance on independence. City analysts believe Dr Khoo Kay Peng, who heads the Malaysian conglomerate, MUI, which controls Laura Ashley, runs the company as his personal fiefdom.

RREV, the shareholder advisory body backed by the National Association of Pension Funds, urged shareholders to block his re-election and that of Roger Bambrough, Sally Kealey, and Sally Cheong Siew Mooi because it does not consider them to be independent.

Nearly half of all the company's shares that are not linked to Dr Khoo Kay Peng were voted against his re-election. MUI has a 34 per cent stake in Laura Ashley, while the chairman holds a further 24 per cent through his private investment vehicle.

In total, 15 per cent of shares were voted against the re-election of Dr Khoo Kay Peng, and a similar percentage were voted against his fellow non-executives.

Speaking after the annual meeting, which barred access to the news media, one private investor said: "We are not happy with Laura Ashley's performance." Another said: "Current trading is not very impressive."

The group did not update the market yesterday but said in April that underlying sales were down by 14 per cent, with a much bigger drop in clothing sales.

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