UK activist fund Crystal Amber vies for change at Sainsbury’s

Crystal Amber is looking at Sainsbury’s on behalf of a big American investor (Source: Getty)
UK activist investment fund Crystal Amber is in talks with several overseas investors about buying shares in Sainsbury’s, as part of a plan to shake-up Britain’s third largest grocer.

Aim-listed Crystal Amber is understood to be looking at Sainsbury’s on behalf of a big American investor interested in buying a sizeable stake in the food retailer. It is also looking at building its own stake so that it can take part in bringing about change.

A group of activists could force the supermarket chain to protect its dividend by selling off parts of its property portfolio or help fend off any rival bid, reports this weekend said.

Crystal Amber and Sainsbury’s declined to comment.

Crystal Amber, which is led by investment director Richard Bernstein, was set up in 2008 to buy stakes in undervalued companies to boost their value by putting pressure on the board.

It lifted its stake in NBNK Investments this summer to 25 per cent to push its board to launch legal proceedings against Lloyds over the 2012 branches sale.

It has a 10 per cent stake in chocolatier Thorntons, which is undergoing a turnaround, as well as stakes in Aer Lingus and TT Electronics.

Some 26 per cent of Sainsbury’s equity is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, which walked away from a possible takeover in 2007, while the different parts of the Sainsbury family own around 11 per cent.

Last month, the supermarket announced plans to cut costs, dividends and store openings to fund £150m of additional price cuts.

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