Shareholders shun move to delist Young's

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The activist investors Guinness Peat Group yesterday pledged to step up its efforts to force Young & Co's Brewery to delist from the stock market, despite failing to win support at Young's annual meeting.

Shareholders supported John Young, the chairman of the family-run brewery, and voted against GPG's proposal that non-family shareholdings should be bought out and the company privatised. Just three people at the packed meeting backed the resolution, leaving 92 per cent of shareholders, including proxy voters, to reject the move.

Blake Nixon, UK executive director of GPG, remained defiant. "We will step up our pace now that we have exhausted all possibilities using the public company approach," he said, referring to the group's four-year fight with Young's. "But there are lots of ways of skinning a cat."

GPG, headed by the New Zealand corporate raider Sir Ron Brierley, is Young's largest outside shareholder. It owns 25 per cent of the A shares, but only 10 per cent of the votes owing to a complex share structure that gives the Young family control of the votes although they own less than 34 per cent of the equity.

Mr Young, speaking through a loudhailer sent to him by some US shareholders to amplify his message, denounced GPG's proposal. "It does nothing for the long-term prospects of the business," he said.

Young's said first-quarter turnover, beer volumes and profits were all ahead of the same period last year. Young's voting A shares fell 12.5p to 765p and the non-voting shares lost 10p to 575p.