Now Shore Capital joins exodus from UK

Broker to incorporate in Guernsey but executives will not talk about taxation
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The Independent Online

The stockbroker appointed to alleviate West Ham United's debt mountain is joining the exodus of companies from Britain.

Shore Capital, which is in the process of demerging its German property business, Puma Brandenburg, is set to incorporate in Guernsey after the demerger is complete.

It is creating two new holding companies, Shore and Puma Brandenburg, both of which will be based on the offshore island.

Howard Shore, executive chairman, repeatedly refused to comment on whether the move would offer taxation benefits to the AIM-listed group over remaining incorporated in Britain. All he would say was: "We have been in Guernsey since the mid-1990s. Most of our funds are there and this is driven by our desire to expand our business internationally."

However, the issue of taxation of profits made in foreign jurisdictions has seen several companies opting to shift their incorporation and headquarters away from Britain.

Accountants said such a move would benefit a company that was "internationalising" by avoiding UK rules that add additional taxes on profits made in low tax overseas jurisdictions. This has become a running sore with multi-nationals which have responded by quitting the UK in favour of territories where this does not happen, while at the same time retaining their quotes on the London Stock Exchange.

The 50 per cent top rate of income tax has also prompted companies to review the location of their headquarters. Most recently the drinks giant Diageo warned that it might have to move because of what it said were the high taxes in Britain.

Shore, which operates in the fiercely competitive small to mid cap brokerage market, is one of the first stockbrokers to make such a move.

Mr Shore described it as "a natural progression". "Our stockbroking activities will continue to pay UK tax," was the only comment he was prepared to make on the issue of Shore Capital's contribution to the Exchequer.

He was speaking as the company swung to a full-year pre-tax profit, thanks to a marked improvement in trading activity. Shore also raised its total dividend almost three times to 0.875p per share against 0.3p the previous year. Pre-tax profits increased to a balmy £14.6m against a loss of £1.3m the previous year.

The company said that it had made a one-time gain of £63.1m as net assets increased from the acquisition of Puma Brandenburg. Total revenue nearly doubled to around £39.0m but funds under management fell 13 per cent to £1.33bn.Shares in the company finished the day up 3.25p at 36p.

Mr Shore said that there had been an improvement in activity generally and he was optimistic about the broker's prospects for the coming year.

He said: "We believe we are well placed to continue to exploit opportunities to grow our business. Our balance sheet is robust with a high level of liquidity. The excellent performance we have achieved over the last decade gives support to our belief that we can continue to prosper."

Shore was appointed by West Ham, now led by the former Birmingham City chairman David Sullivan, to help reduce the club's £110m debt mountain. While that is the most high-profile transaction it has been involved with, the broker has been involved in four deals this year, as markets have continued to rebound from the nadir reached during the credit crunch.

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