Peel mops up minority Ship Canal holding

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The Independent Online
THE BATTLE for control of the Manchester Ship Canal Company moved closer to a conclusion yesterday after nearly 10 years of wrangling, writes Tom Stevenson.

Peel Holdings, the company controlled by the property developer and Olympic bid promoter John Whittaker, finally wooed MSCC's biggest minority shareholder with an offer almost six times higher than its original approach in 1987. The shares rose from pounds 21.50 to pounds 26.50.

Nicholas Berry, the former owner of the Harraps dictionary business, has shrugged off two previous offers for his 10 per cent of ordinary shares and 7 per cent of preference shares.

However, he plans to accept a scheme that could see him receive as much as pounds 33.50 per share, or pounds 21.6m.

He and the other minority shareholders will receive pounds 23 in cash per share and a further pounds 7 in zero coupon loan notes from Peel, which already owns 82 per cent of the company. Those notes are repayable at a rate of pounds 10.50 each either after five years or within nine months of approval being gained for a 300-acre retail park in south Manchester.

Mr Berry first took a stake in MSCC 10 years ago when he felt the company's water-side land holdings were undervalued by the stock market. Before accepting Peel's offer, he had rejected the original offer of pounds 6.25 for the ordinaries and pounds 3 for the prefs and a follow-up bid 18 months later of pounds 20.70 and pounds 9.30 respectively.