Shareholder revolt hits AO.com board

 

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The Independent Online

The chairman of AO.com, the online fridge and washing machine seller, was given a bloody nose by shareholders yesterday as nearly one in four independent investors refused to give him their backing.

Presiding over the company’s annual general meeting, Richard Rose could only muster the support of 76 per cent of independent shareholders voting for his re-election, with the remaining following the advice of advisory service Pirc, which called for investors to vote him out.

On paper, it looked like a decisive re-election victory for the chairman, with the results showing he won a 90 per cent backing from shareholders. However, nearly 60 per cent of the company is owned by members of the board, including chief executive and founder John Roberts, with a 29 per cent stake.

Mr Rose had been criticised for taking the top job despite being on the board of several other listed companies, including cash and carry outfit Booker, butchery business Crawshaw, Anpario and Blue Inc. He is also set to become chairman of the insurance claims outsourcer Quindell. The serial chairman was also attacked when he sold off 89 per cent of his stake in AO.com not long after a profit warning, triggering shares to fall a further 9 per cent.

The AGM comes as chief executive Mr Roberts revealed profits would be in line with expectations, much to the disappointment of short sellers, who had been betting against the company in recent days.

Shares closed up 3.17 per cent as a result, at 123.5p, having hit an all-time low on Monday.

It comes despite a “muted” sales period where UK revenues rose just 6.5 per cent in the three months to end of June, compared with a 30 per cent jump in sales revealed this time a year ago.

Mr Roberts admitted that AO.com had suffered at the hands of Currys PC World, owned by Dixons Carphone, which has pushed “particularly intense competitive activity in the market”. He also blamed the uncertainty from May’s  election.

This month has improved, as the housing market picks up and customers have more disposal income.