View from City Road: Rights go and Stevens stays

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The Independent Online
A triumph for Lord Stevens] United Newspapers' rights issue was taken up by holders of 95 per cent of the shares. That represents more support than British Airways, Royal Insurance or Zeneca enjoyed.

What happened to the opposition? Soon after the rights was launched, fund managers hinted that they would not take up their rights if the UN chairman - whose reputation has suffered from his association with Robert Maxwell - did not step down early. It looks as if their bark was a lot worse than their bite. As well as doubts about Lord Stevens' continued usefulness, UN managed to ride out the damage from a circulation war started by Rupert Murdoch's News International.

The discount - the rights were offered at 480p, 105p below the price on the previous day - made the offer hard to refuse. It also meant that fund managers were not in a strong position to bargain.

Cynics suggest that the institutions have been bought off by private reassurances that Lord Stevens will retire early. But surely that would have to be announced publicly, as it would be price-sensitive.

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