Charles Pretzlik: Mayo relishes Vodafone

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What a day. Apart the BAE Systems/Saudi story, which is principally a political one, the other big story of the day is Vodafone.

The company very kindly spoiled our scoop last night by issuing a statement after hours confirming it had received a proposal from a group backed by John Mayo seeking to restructure the balance sheet. That statement was issued after we had diligently and courteously invited the company to comment. So, thanks very much Vodafone.

Anyway, with that off my chest, it seems to me that Vodafone would have grounds for contesting the validity of Mayo’s resolution. He and his friends are exploiting a little-known clause in the Companies Act which allows any group of 100 shareholders who have paid an average of £100 each for their stakes to requisition an resolution. Mayo & Co have done this by setting up 100 nominee accounts, which they clearly feel is within the letter of the law but does not feel to me to be entirely within its spirit.

As for the proposals’ chances of success, our initial soundings suggest that investors are lukewarm about junking the group’s credit rating by gearing up and are unconvinced by the idea of a tracker stock giving direct exposure to Verizon Wireless, in which Vodafone has a large but minority stake. Vodafone shares, having shot up initially, are up just 1½ per cent.

I think I am right in saying that Mayo & Co need 75 per cent shareholder support but start with a minute stake (worth about £200,000). It is worth a shot for Mayo, but the shot is long. Very interesting, though, and the topic is being heavily discussed on FT Alphaville.

Elsewhere we have DSG International appointing John Browett as chief executive to succeed John Clare. He comes from Tesco and so should know all there is to know about what the food retailers are doing to get into non-food.

Cadbury Schweppes is buying a Turkish gum business, Intergum, in a deal worth $450m. Let’s hope it isn’t betting on a smoking ban in Turkey.

Also, we’re checking out The Times’s interesting story about 35 out of 36 former colleagues of the Natwest Three have refused to meet lawyers for the three.

A couple of other things to point out: the Barclay Brothers have raised their stake in Intercontinental Hotels to 10 per cent. And David Jones, ex-Next and Wm Morrison, has become chairman of the Direct Marketing Group, which plans to list on Aim next year.

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