Numis chiefs 'in dispute' over sale plans

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The Independent Online

The Stockbroker Numis is embroiled in an internal dispute over the company's future, according to industry sources.

The Stockbroker Numis is embroiled in an internal dispute over the company's future, according to industry sources.

Oliver Hemsley, the chief executive, wants to sell the company now, the sources say, while David Poutney, who works in corporate broking at Numis, favours waiting another couple of years or so in order to get a better deal.

The issue runs much deeper, though, one source said. "There's a real dislike between Poutney and Hemsley. They will disagree about anything." He said that Mr Poutney would rather hold on for a while to allow Numis to grow and then sell for a higher price of perhaps £10 a share.

The shares closed at 662.5p yesterday, giving Numis a market value of about £130m. Mr Poutney, a former analyst at WestLB Panmure, is also said to have ambitions to oust Mr Hemsley and run the company himself.

Last week Numis rejected a takeover approach from an unidentified third party. It issued the statement in response to a report in a newspaper which said the Icelandic bank Landsbanki was considering making a bid. Landsbanki is being advised by HSBC, with which it has a long-standing relationship, a source close to the bank said.

Any bidder would need to win over Numis's directors and staff, who together own about 55 to 60 per cent of the company. That prevents a hostile takeover and raises the prospect of a bidder paying a substantial premium to yesterday's share price if an offer is pursued. Mr Hemsley holds an 18 per cent stake in Numis while Mr Poutney owns about 8 per cent of its shares.

Mr Hemsley dismissed talk of an internal dispute as "absolute rubbish." He said: "There is no division. We received an approach but we decided to build an independent business." Mr Poutney was unavailable for comment.

Numis, which offers corporate banking and advisory services, equities sales, trading and research, has carved out a successful niche in the insurance sector but has recently expanded into other areas including retail and media. Three years ago the broker hired a large team from the former WestLB Panmure, including its highly rated team of media analysts.

In its first foray overseas, the company opened an office in New York at the beginning of the year. With a client list of 80 UK companies, the group has done 10 deals this year and has raised about £430m for clients. It posted pre-tax profits of £11.2m in the six months to the end of March, up 120 per cent from the same period last year.