Shareholders up in arms after Locker delists without notice

By Stephen Foley
Wednesday 23 January 2002 01:00

Shareholders in Thomas Locker, a Cheshire-based engineering company, are up in arms after the company delisted from the stock exchange without informing them.

The move leaves the investors with no guarantee they will be able to sell their shares. The company says it did not want to leave them with an opportunity to sell in the market, where the share price could have been decimated.

The London Stock Exchange, which is privately said to be furious, is changing the rules to close the loophole and ensure shareholders are given sufficient notice when an AIM-quoted company decides to delist. Fully listed companies have to give 20 days' notice, a requirement that is likely to be extended to the lightly regulated AIM market within the next few weeks.

Locker's finance director, John Dalzell, said a number of Locker's largest shareholders, including the venture capital group ECI, were informed privately in advance. He said the expense of complying with AIM's regulatory and disclosure rules was unjustified.

"We need to reduce debt and reduce costs. Shareholders are aware that we are trying to sell our headquarters in Warrington. It would hardly be in their interests for us to make a few million pounds from that and have to give away hundreds of thousands of pounds to solicitors and advisers," he said.

Simon Brickles, the head of AIM, confirmed Locker had acted according to the letter of the rules, but said "best practice and common courtesy" should dictate companies should give sufficient notice. "We have always said if we don't get co-operation from companies and their advisers then we will legislate," he said.

In a letter received by shareholders yesterday, Locker's chairman, Phil Gartside, said those wishing to sell should write to the company indicating their desired price.

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