Securicor lifts investor payout from Cellnet sale to pounds 3bn

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SECURICOR, the business services group with a 40 per cent interest in BTCellnet, bowed to shareholders' demands yesterday, pledging to return pounds 3.02bn of the pounds 3.15bn it will receive from selling the mobile phone stake to British Telecom.

It emerged that Cazenove, the blue-blooded City broker, was hired by Securicor to "survey" shareholders' views about the sale.

Their research indicated that support from the 75 per cent of shareholders needed to push the deal through would be forthcoming in exchange for the vast bulk of the proceeds being paid out. "What Cazenove said to us is that all the major shareholders are in favour," Roger Wiggs, Securicor's chief executive, said. "That is to say 75 per cent."

An extraordinary general meeting to vote on the deal is set for 8 October.

Since the deal was unveiled in late July several fund managers, including Prudential, Standard Life and K-Capital of the US, have said the pounds 3.15bn price tag assigned to the stake is too little.

They believe Securicor's stake in BTCellnet, as the second-biggest UK operator with over 5 million customers, should have commanded a far higher price compared with the pounds 13.5bn valuation of Orange, which has 3.3 million customers.

Mr Wiggs said other buyers were only interested in the stake if BT was willing to rewrite the shareholders' agreement. BT, he said, was unwilling to do so. He also said that BT, supported by BTCellnet management, planned to bid for a third-generation mobile licence and then sell those services to BTCellnet.

"It was a tricky legal and technical matter," he added. "From a legal perspective we were not in strong position."

John Tysoe, an analyst with WestLB Panmure, said: "My feeling is that they got the best deal they possibly could. They didn't have control and BT was always going to be tough. Securicor only invested pounds 4m, so what's the gripe?"

Mr Wiggs would not comment on whether institutions that opposed the deal did so because of arbitrage or options positions that had turned sour.

In January, the Department of Trade and Industry ruled that BT would be allowed to buy out Securicor's minority stake. Securicor stock promptly jumped by over 25 per cent, hitting a peak of 638p amid heavy buying. Yesterday the stock closed down 1.5p at 593.5p.

Securicor's payout to shareholders will be between 491p and 500p per share, depending on the number of share options exercised by the record date. Shareholders can choose cash or a BT-backed loan note.

Securicor will relaunch itself in business support services with plans to spend up to pounds 250m in expanding its remaining guarding and delivery operations.