Regan misses Co-op deadline

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The Independent Online
Andrew Regan has failed in his attempt to get his bid approach to the Co-op movement formally discussed at the Co-operative Wholesale Society's annual general meeting next month.

It was expected that Mr Regan's Lanica Trust would try to ensure that a resolution supporting his proposals would appear on the agenda at the meeting on 17 May.

However, the deadline for submissions was 2 April and the CWS board had received no proposals supporting him by that date. As resolutions can only be tabled by CWS members, Mr Regan was relying on the support of sympathetic members to put forward a motion on his behalf.

The board kept the deadline open until the following weekend to give postal applications more time but still received no resolutions from any Regan supporters. It is also understood that at the board meeting on 2 April the directors were unanimous in their support for maintaining the CWS in its current form.

Though Mr Regan's interest in buying parts of the non-food interests of the Co-op will clearly be an issue at the meeting, the lack of a formal resolution will be a setback for the 31-year-old entrepreneur and could delay any formal bid approach.

However, the Lanica Trust team were making light of the issue yesterday, suggesting that it may have found another route. "It is not a question of missing any date. It is not a key date in our diary," a spokesman said.

The CWS concedes that Mr Regan could have a special general meeting called but would need 10 of the society's 300 members to support his proposals.

The CWS annual meeting takes place in Manchester on 17 May and will be attended by around 300 society members. A full list of resolutions will not be published until 19 April when the CWS will publish its results for last year. The figures are expected to show a decline in profits from the previous year's pounds 30m though not the slide into the red that some have been expecting.

The Co-op has also shrugged off suggestions that a strategic review ordered by its chief executive, Graham Melmoth, has only just come to light.

The CWS says that Mr Melmoth ordered the review last autumn following his appointment and that it was public knowledge at that time.

It said that the results of the review would not be known for some months but repeated that there were no plans to sell any of its businesses.

Mr Melmoth met Co-op managers last Friday and stressed the need for further convergence of its disparate societies.

He has already said that a merger between the two largest divisions, the CWS and the Co-operative Retail Society, is something that would happen in time. However, the Lanica Trust approach is likely to have made the need for action more urgent.

Mr Regan's approach has been made through Galileo, an arms-length company of Lanica Trust. He is interested in a pounds 500m deal that would see him take control of parts of the movement's non-food interests such as funeral parlours and travel agencies as well as the Co-op Bank.