The board of collapsed Yellow Pages publisher hibu is facing a showdown with angry shareholders who claim to be “days away” from forcing an extraordinary general meeting, The Independent can reveal.
The aggrieved investors, known as the Hibu Shareholders Action Group, have lodged the request for the EGM with hibu. The document raises dozens of questions about the conduct of chief executive Mike Pocock, former chairman Bob Wigley and other directors.
The group has already accused the board of a “dereliction of duty” in the months leading up to the shares’ suspension from the stock market in July. Now the EGM request proposes appointing 10 new, named directors and it demands the hibu board “provide a full and detailed explanation” about its discussions with lenders over its £2bn debt pile, before and after its default.
Mr Pocock, Mr Wigley and other directors are also asked to explain “what steps” each of them “has personally taken to protect the interests of shareholders”.
The action group is angry that vulture funds bought up the debt cheaply earlier this year and now stand to profit as lenders take control in a debt-for-equity swap, while shareholders get nothing. Barry Dearing, lawyer for the angry investors, is confident of winning the support of 5 per cent of shareholders – the required amount to call an EGM – within days, despite a lack of support from some City institutions.
Many of the group’s members are small investors who are not on the hibu register as they hold their shares through nominee accounts belonging to big banks and stockbrokers. Mr Dearing claimed some of these firms, including one major high street bank, have been unwilling to help, even though City rules put an onus on nominees to act in the best interests of their clients.
Mr Dearing said: “It is very telling that it is banks who are putting obstacles in the way of shareholders who are concerned about the way their value is being taken away by creditors, who are expected to include banks.”
The Share Centre, Hargreaves Lansdown and Charles Stanley are among the nominee firms that have agreed to requests to call for an EGM.
Hibu declined to comment, but has maintained that its board kept investors informed and tried to act in their best interests. In a sign of the action group’s combative approach, the EGM document has taken Yellow Pages’ logo and reversed the image of two fingers pointing down to turn it into a “V-sign”.Reuse content