Signet shareholders overwhelm rebels 520 words

BY NIGEL COPE

Shareholders in Signet, the debt-laden jewellery retailer, voted overwhelmingly against proposals to break up the group at an emergency general meeting in London yesterday.

The meeting had been called by a group of preference shareholders who had been urging the board to seek offers for the various parts of the group such as H Samuel and Ernest Jones.

However, the rebels vowed to fight on. Brian Myerson, an adviser to the UK Active Value Fund, one of the rebel funds, said he would not rule out forcing further meetings if the board did announce more detailed plans to restructure the company.

He added that the views of the American preference shareholders would harden as a result of the defeat.

"The institutions have voted on the understanding the company will seek a re-construction soon. We think this is a one-off support and if we call another meeting we think some institutions will vote differently."

James McAdam, chairman of Signet, would not comment on the prospect of further run-ins with the disgruntled faction. He said the company's first job was to renegotiate its banking facilities, which run out in June, and to keep improving the business.

During the meeting, attended by about 200 shareholders, Mr McAdam had to field several questions from disillusioned shareholders. This included a running dialogue with the rebel shareholders Mr Myerson and Julian Treger, who sat in the front row peppering the board with questions.

One white-haired shareholder, who admitted she was no financial expert, asked whether there was any prospect of the share price improving "before I kick the bucket, so to speak".

Another, who described himself as "a tortured shareholder" who had bought shares at 300p compared with the current price of 14p, said he wondered what had happened to the entrepreneurship that had helped build a £1bn company.

Another criticised the lack of retail expertise on the board. Several admitted their shares were valueless and criticised the board for having no shares in the company.

The board did have some supporters at the meeting, however. Pointing to Mr Myerson and Mr Treger in the front row, one shareholder said: "I'd sooner lose my entire investment than see that lot get anything."

The meeting was marred by a mistake over proxy votes. Mr Treger complained that some shareholders, who had pledged to vote against the board, had not been sent proxy forms. Mr McAdam insisted correct procedures had been followed.

Having defeated the resolution, Mr McAdam will be under increasing pressure from institutions to announce a refinancing package in the next few months. According to some institutional shareholders, he has been saying a restructuring will be announced as soon as the bank negotiations have been concluded. But it is unlikely any package would much benefit ordinary shareholders.

Signet is labouring under debts of £360m and £130m of unpaid dividends on its preference shares. Goldsmiths, the small quoted jewellery group, has offered £250m for Signet's UK businesses.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?