Sykes chief counters shareholder's claims

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DAVID HUBBARD, chairman of Andrew Sykes, the environmental services company, has struck back at a dissident shareholder trying to unseat him.

His move comes after Jacques Murray, a wealthy French industrialist, stepped up his campaign against the Sykes board for what he claims is bad financial management.

Mr Hubbard has hit back with criticism of Mr Murray's fire protection company, Nu-Swift, in which Michael Ashcroft's ADT holds 22 per cent.

'I admit that Sykes has had problems, but Nu-Swift's performance has not been so great. His complaints smack of pots and kettles,' Mr Hubbard said. 'This is a backdoor bid for the company,' he added.

Sykes meets its advisers tomorrow to draw up its next step in what promises to be an acrimonious run-up to an extraordinary meeting planned for 16 October.

The meeting was called by Mr Murray, owner of 26.6 per cent of Sykes, who hopes to raise enough support to remove Mr Hubbard and David Crowe, a non-executive director. He wants to replace them with three of his associates to form a majority on the five-man board.

On Thursday, Mr Murray criticised the 'repeated failure to achieve expected levels of profitability' at Sykes. He complained of an 80 per cent drop in profits since 1989, and the payment of dividends out of reserves, when it was clear resources needed to be preserved.