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Birkett makes plea to shareholders

Prestbury chief executive Lee Birkett has written to shareholders pleading with them to vote against the removal of himself and his mother, finance director Lynne Birkett, at next week’s extraordinary general meeting.

The letter claims there were “inaccuracies” in a previous letter calling for his removal thought to have been sent to shareholders by Armadillo Investments – now in liquidation – and Arlington special situations fund, which together hold 22 per cent of Prestbury.

Prestbury chairman and Conservative Shadow minister Francis Maude said in a stockmarket alert two weeks ago that shareholders were concerned over “conflicts of interest” on the board.

Maude said his proposals for a restructure to allow a non-executive majority were blocked by the executives.

Birkett claims that he has the backing of shareholders such as former chief operating officer Stephen Keenan and sales director Kevin Sample, who have pledged to vote against his removal and, together with his own stake, represent 44 per cent of shares.

Birkett considers that proposals for a non-executive-dominated board are “unworkable”.

He defends the writedown of a £853,000 loan to Prestbury Investment Management, a packager which was formerly part of Prestbury Group Holdings but is now wholly owned by Lee Birkett. He says before PIM’s transfer out of the listed company in July 2005, Prestbury was losing £50,000 a month and this could have resulted in a breach of capital adequacy ratios if it had remained part of the group.

Birkett says: “Your executives have just spent the last two weeks touring the country rallying the adviser base and their loyalty to us is humbling.”


Mena streets

Economic news might seem relentlessly negative in the West but many emerging economies are still enjoying strong growth. The Middle East and North Africa are among the fastest-growing areas and have benefited from surging oil prices. Demand for energy is likely to remain high as countries such as China turn themselves into industrial powerhouses, so we expect the resource-rich Mena economies to continue to receive this windfall for many years.

Friends weathers storm

Friends Provident says it is determined to ride out the economic turmoil despite profits falling by 20 per cent in the first half of this year.

Darling dithers again

As I was preparing to write this column, I suddenly found myself wading through a succession of One Year of the Credit Crunch stories. Some pieces were informative, others entertaining, a few were truly outstanding.


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