Alliance set to rouse investors to fight Laxey

DIRECTORS of Alliance Trust and the activist investor leading a campaign against its chief executive Katherine Garrett-Cox are set to begin lobbying shareholders in the run-up to a crunch vote on the management of the fund.

The £2.1bn investment trust believes ensuring a high turnout will help it to beat hedge fund Laxey Partners, whose public call for the management to be outsourced has piled pressure on Garrett-Cox.

Aberdeen Asset Management, led by Martin Gilbert, is waiting in the wings and is thought to have put proposals to major shareholders about taking over the management of the trust. It will not launch a hostile approach but is widely expected to tender for the contract if the opportunity arises.

Alliance chairman Karin Forseke is today due to meet Colin Kingsnorth, her Laxey counterpart, who is concerned about the discount to net asset value (NAV) at which Alliance’s shares trade. Forseke, who last week publicly backed Garrett-Cox, is expected to criticise his stance as short-termist.

Alliance shareholders, mostly long-term individual investors, will vote on Laxey’s resolution on 27 April, when turnout could be key. Last year Alliance defeated Laxey’s call for an automatic buyback policy as turnout hit an “unprecedented” 60 per cent, nearly double the normal level.

Laxey, a 1.7 per cent shareholder, is thought to have the backing of fellow shareholders Brewin Dolphin and investment management firm Speirs & Jeffrey for its current questioning of the role of Garrett-Cox.

Alliance, Laxey and Aberdeen declined to comment.