Sugar 'will not seek to sell stake'

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The Independent Online
ALAN SUGAR, chairman of the Amstrad consumer electronic group, will not actively seek to sell his 35 per cent stake in the company, despite the probability that shareholders will reject his attempt to buy out their shares at a meeting on Thursday, according to a spokesman.

He backed away from comments made by Mr Sugar in the Independent on Sunday, in which the Amstrad chairman threatened to 'stay on, but only to look after my own interests', if the offer were rejected.

The spokesman described Mr Sugar's remarks as 'an unfortunate expression'. 'What he was saying was that he considers he has done his duty in making this offer, and that he must consider his own interests.

'He has turned down offers before because they were not available to other shareholders, and he will not be seeking buyers for his shareholding. But if in the future offers were made, he would consider them carefully,' the spokesman said.

'He is in there fighting his corner for the company and he really is totally devoted to it.

'He was not suggesting he would not continue to be concerned with the interests of shareholders in general - after all, he is one of them, owning a third of the company.'

Proxies counted by the weekend showed shareholders rejecting Mr Sugar's offer by both measures needed for the proposal to succeed. He needs the support of 75 per cent of the voting shares, excluding his own, plus a simple majority of shareholders.

'We haven't handed in the towel, but it certainly looks as if we're losing,' the spokesman admitted.

Edward Northcote, a small private shareholder who has been a leader of the campaign against the offer, said shareholders had no need to be concerned if Mr Sugar were to leave the company.

'Amstrad has some very profitable businesses - you don't need a certain specialist knowledge to produce satellite dishes,' he said.

Amstrad's spokesman said that it would become clear today whether the offer would succeed as more proxies were counted. He said that the offer would not be abandoned even if Mr Sugar were certain to lose. 'I understand that, technically, the meeting must go ahead and the vote must be taken.'

He added that Mr Sugar would stand by the promise he made at Amstrad's annual meeting to seek independent directors for the company.