Tycoon's takeover tactics face probe

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The Independent Online

The Stock Exchange and the Takeover Panel are set to examine share dealings in Enterprise Asia by Stephen Dean, the tycoon who tried to gain control of the cash-rich investment company earlier this year.

The Stock Exchange and the Takeover Panel are set to examine share dealings in Enterprise Asia by Stephen Dean, the tycoon who tried to gain control of the cash-rich investment company earlier this year.

The queries centre on share buying by one company associated with Mr Dean when another linked to him was trying to take over Enterprise Asia.

Artisan, a company where Mr Dean is a director and shareholder, has built up a 21 per cent stake in Enterprise Asia. Earlier this month he called for an extraordinary shareholder meeting when he wanted to oust the two founders of the company, Sui Fai Ng and Phillip Brown, and appoint himself and two of his associates.

Enterprise Asia bosses rejected the move, although they have offered to let the two associates join Enterprise Asia's board as a compromise.

In their fight against Mr Dean, the Enterprise directors have revealed details of a bid approach made by Weatherly, another firm backed by Mr Dean.

In a letter signed by Mr Dean and Weatherly's chairman, John Matthews, on 31 July, Weatherly said it was willing to make an all-share offer for Enterprise. But on 9 August this bid was withdrawn. Mr Matthews wrote that the offer was made without the Weatherly board's full authority.

The complaints centre on the purchase of a million shares in Enterprise Asia at about 16p each on 1 August by Artisan.

Enterprise's financial adviser, Altium Partners, says this purchase was made while "armed with inside information concerning the unpublicised takeover approach by Weatherly". It wants the Stock Exchange to examine the dealings and has asked the Takeover Panel whether Artisan should be forced to sell the shares it bought after Weatherly's approach.

Mr Dean wrote to shareholders on Friday saying he'd make a detailed response to all accusations this week. His office said he was unavailable to comment.

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