Schroder decides against court battle with News

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J SCHRODER WAGG has decided against doing battle in court with News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's media group. All proceedings between the two companies have been dropped, it was reported last night.

The merchant bank is one of a number of investors in dispute with News Corp over the rights to shares in Royal Doulton, the fine china subsidiary recently demerged by Pearson.

The argument relates to bonds and preference shares issued in 1989 by News Corp. These were convertible into shares in Pearson in which News Corp then held a stake. When Pearson demerged Royal Doulton last year News Corp initially indicated that these investors would be entitled to the Royal Doulton shares. The Doulton shares made the difference as to whether conversion was profitable.

News Corp subsequently changed its mind, and number of investors lost money as a result. While News Corp said it would consider the issue of compensation, it has not admitted liability. Investors had sought to have the dispute resolved by the City Disputes Panel.

News Corp refused arbitration and said it wanted the courts to rule on the issue instead. It accordingly brought test proceedings involving Schroder, saying that the bank's case raised a number of issues common to many of the investors' claims.

But Schroder decided it was not prepared to be involved in court proceedings because the costs could have rendered any sum that might have been recovered meaningless. Its decision will disappoint other investors, who were hoping for a speedy resolution to the dispute, but many of whom are unwilling to become involved in action against News Corp.