Wickes to resume trading today

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The Independent Online
Shares in Wickes, the troubled DIY group, will finally resume trading today after shareholders yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favour of the company's pounds 53m rescue rights issue.

The rescue package means Wickes shares will start trading at 8.30 this morning, six months after they were suspended following the accounting scandal which led to a serious over-statement of profits.

Though the emergency general meeting in the City of London was attended by only about 30 shareholders, proxy votes cast by institutional investors carried the vote by a ratio of 10 to one.

Clearly relieved to have secured shareholders' support for the rights issue, the new Wickes chief executive, Bill Grimsey, said: "This meeting signals the end of the disaster recovery phase. What we're doing is building the new Wickes. We've got this far. Many said we wouldn't, but we have."

Wickes shares are expected to open at a premium to the 15p-per-share- rights issue price this morning, boosted by speculation that the group will soon become a takeover target.

Mr Grimsey declined to comment on further changes to the Wickes board though Sanford Sigaloff, 66, the non-executive who is closely associated with former Wickes chairman Henry Sweetbaum, is expected to resign before April.

Robert Burrow, a non-executive director who is a partner at City lawyers SJ Berwin, will step down at the group's annual meeting in April.

Mr Grimsey said Wickes had received no formal approaches regarding a possible takeover. However, he did admit that the "phone had rung a couple of times". Possible bidders include Kingfisher and RMC which owns the Great Mills chain.

However, John Richards, an analyst at NatWest Securities, said talk of takeover was optimistic. "We are sceptical as to whether there is anybody out there who wants Wickes enough to pay a premium. Wickes has damaged its relations with suppliers and has no consumer brand name to speak of."

Predicting a "slow, lingering death" for Wickes Mr Richards advised shareholders to take advantage of any rise in the share price to reduce their holding.

Under the terms of the rights issue and capital re-construction shareholders will receive one new share for every 10 new shares at 150p.