Versailles founder nets pounds 29m from shares sale

CARL CUSHNIE, founder and chairman of Versailles Group, netted almost pounds 29m yesterday by trimming his controlling stake in the trade-finance company after a dramatic run-up in its share price.

In a disclosure to the Stock Exchange, the company said Mr Cushnie, 49, had sold 13.9 million shares at 208p, reducing his stake in the group to about 54 per cent from 59 per cent.

The move follows suggestions from corporate advisers that Versailles should increase the free float in its shares to improve their liquidity.

Versailles, which listed on the Alternative Investment Market in 1995 at 8p a share and is now a FTSE 250 constituent, ended 6p higher yesterday at 219.5p. Its shares have risen from 156p early last month amid gathering enthusiasm among analysts over future earnings.

Versailles provides small manufacturers with bridge finance to complete orders. It buys goods from small producers at 80 per cent of their face value, then sells them on to the maker's clients. After the deal is complete, Versailles pays back its take to the manufacturer, keeping a commission. Analysts have estimated the value of the potential market at more than pounds 50bn a year. Last month, London-based Versailles saw a 53 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 7.91m.

Neil Greig, a non-executive director, sold 1.5 million shares at 208p, while Brian Smith, the deputy chairman, sold 600,000 shares, also at 208p.