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Signet chief attacks `flawed' tactics

Disgruntled preference shareholders in Signet, the debt-laden jewellery retailer, yesterday issued a fresh set of proposals designed to force the board to sell parts of the business. The proposals were attacked by Signet's management as "seriously flawed".

Rebel investors led by the UK Active Value Fund have already forced an emergency general meeting next month when shareholders will be asked to vote on plans for the break-up and sale of the group.

Yesterday the dissidents offered to waive £150m of dividend arrears in an offer that could be worth 20p a share to ordinary shareholders.

UK Active Value, led by Julian Treger, wants the company to seek valuations of Signet businesses including H Samuel and Ernest Jones. It offered ordinary shareholders 20p a share subject to the break-up value of the group exceeding £700m, plus 20 per cent of any proceeds in excess of £800m.

Mr Treger said: "Shareholders have a right to know the value of their businesses and this is the last offer we are prepared to make."

Signet chairman James McAdam said: "This is a transparent attempt by a small group of preference shareholders to justify what is now seen to be a seriously flawed resolution."

An analyst commented that Mr Treger was "looking at the world though rose-coloured spectacles".