Harvey Nicks owners question delisting

By Susie Mesure
Tuesday 12 November 2002 01:00
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Minority shareholders in Harvey Nichols have called on the UK Listing Authorities to clarify whether the department store group would qualify for an automatic delisting from the London Stock Exchange if a £137.5m takeover offer from its chairman is declared unconditional.

Investors are concerned that in the absence of non-executive directors there would be no one to look after their interests if its shares were delisted.

A revised takeover bid tabled on Friday from Dickson Poon, the Hong Kong entrepreneur and group chairman who owns 50.1 per cent of Harvey Nichols, stated that should the offer be declared unconditional "it is probable that the listing of Harvey Nichols shares on the official list will be cancelled". If this happens, the group's non-executive directors ­ John Gray, Nigel Rich and Keith Holman ­ will resign.

Andrew Tusa, the head of corporate governance at Deutsche Asset Management, the biggest institutional investor with 14.9 per cent, said: "[A delisting] might risk contravening a number of measures contained in the Companies Act which serve to protect against the prejudice of minority shareholders."

Deutsche has argued that the 250p-a-share offer from Mr Poon's Broad Gain vehicle undervalues the upmarket group.

The fresh concerns over the position of minority shareholders came as they cast a protest vote against Mr Poon's previous bid. Investors representing 55.2 per cent of outstanding shares voted in favour of his original bid while those representing 44.8 per cent voted against.

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