Special dividend splits Salvesen shareholders oveyr 2

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A split between private and institutional investors in Christian Salvesen opened yesterday after the board pushed through a controversial pounds 100m special dividend at a hostile shareholders' meeting in Edinburgh.

The board, led by Sir Alick Rankin, chairman, was forced to put the proposed payment to a poll after around two-thirds of the 400 people attending the gathering, mainly individual investors, voted against on a show of hands. The final tally showed 69 per cent of the votes cast backing the management, with over three-quarters of the share capital thought to have been voted.

Sir Gerald Elliot, who has led a pounds 300,000 campaign against the dividend and related proposal to demerge the Aggreko generator hire business, said he thought the private shareholders were largely behind him. He expressed regret that institutional investors, led by Morgan Stanley and PDFM, had decided to support the company.

"I would like to see boards being more sensitive to the long-term interests of companies and less to the short-term concerns of institutions", he said. "What [the campaign] did bring out was the widespread concern about the way the company has been run."

But he said he would not continue his crusade, which means the management should be able to push through the demerger unopposed at a second extraordinary meeting later this year.