QMH cleared to borrow pounds 2bn: Shareholders sanction proposal as ex-chairman withdraws protest

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The Independent Online
JOHN Bairstow, the former chairman of Queens Moat Houses, withdrew a protest vote against sanctioning the hotel group's pounds 2bn borrowing powers at yesterday's extraordinary meeting.

He had tendered a proxy for his 8.2 million shares against the proposal but changed his stance when Stanley Metcalfe, chairman, insisted on a poll of votes for the borrowing powers.

Mr Bairstow said he had always intended to vote in favour, but wanted to make a protest. He would have proposed a poll himself to revise his vote.

His about-turn had little influence on the outcome. The 100 shareholders at the 900- seat Queen Elizabeth Hall in London cast 422 million votes for and 1 million against.

The approval helped Queens Moat overcome an embarrassing hitch, caused by not inviting 7 per cent preference shareholders to vote on the same proposal at a meeting last August. Preference holders yesterday cast 4.3 million in favour and just 31,061 against the borrowing proposal.

Mr Bairstow was protesting because he thought 'a lot more information should have been given to shareholders, and partly because of the extremely low property valuations placed on the group'.

Jones Lang Wootton, the chartered surveyor, has valued Queens Moat's hotels at pounds 861m - pounds 500m below an assessment by Weatherall Green & Smith.

Attempts by investors to elicit more information yesterday during a 25-minute barrage of questions were stonewalled by Mr Metcalfe.

Questions, in particular, about a reputed pounds 700,000 annual insurance indemnity premium covering directors were, Mr Metcalfe stressed, not a matter for this meeting.

When Mr Bairstow was chairman, the company had a pounds 10m indemnity policy costing pounds 34,000 a year.

Mr Metcalfe did, however, answer a question on the lengthy restructuring negotiations, and another on the relisting of the ordinary shares which have been suspended at 47.5p for a year.

'Much has been achieved in laying the foundation for reconstruction,' he said. 'I am still hopeful it will happen in April. Then the company will be attempting to relist the ordinary shares immediately afterwards.'