Buyout boss leaving but woes remain

THANKS to a combination of boardroom decisions, some vocal activist investors and the long-running economic slump, 3i is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

If it continues to defy those shareholders calling for an asset sale, then it faces more public griping, even though some rebel investors, such as Laxey, own only around one per cent.

The alternative, however, would hardly inaugurate a new era of calm prosperity. 3i, whose shares have shed about two-thirds of their value since a 2007 peak, would struggle to extract value from its assets when the market knows it wants to sell.

It is that vast portfolio which poses a problem. 3i has stakes in some well-known high-street names but a faltering recovery in spending and write-downs on firms it bought before the crisis, such as Enterprise Group, have hit performance and its half-year were poor.

On top of all this it must find a new chief executive to replace Michael Queen before the AGM in July. Life for Britain’s oldest listed buyout firm is not about to get any smoother.