Minerva rebel investor KiFin slams finances

Marion Dakers
ACTIVIST shareholder KiFin piled the pressure on property developer Minerva yesterday with a barrage of criticism ahead of a crunch meeting next month.

KiFin sent a letter to Minerva shareholders taking a swipe at the firm’s finances, saying: “One does not need to be a rocket scientist to see how hugely over leveraged Minerva is.”

KiFin, owned by South African billionaire Nathan Kirsh, made a bid for Minerva in 2009, but said it is now “terrified at the thought of having to consolidate almost £1bn of Minerva’s debt onto its own balance sheet”.

Minerva countered with another circular claiming KiFin’s calls to remove chairman Oliver Whitehead and chief executive Salmaan Hasan are an attempt to wrench control of the firm without the hassle of a takeover.

It called KiFin’s claims “inaccurate and unsubstantiated”, and recommended shareholders reject KiFin’s shakeup proposals at an emergency shareholder meeting on 8 September.

The statements from the two camps stand opposed on a number of factual matters, including whether Minerva bosses rejected a takeover bid from Limitless in 2008, and on KiFin’s claim that the firm lacks financial transparency and has short-changed shareholders with its management of the Lancasters and Walbrook projects.

“This is a very simple issue about disclosure and transparency. It’s hugely disappointing that it’s being aired in public, and it wasn’t our choice,” said KiFin’s UK representative Philip Lewis, who stands to become interim chief executive under the firm’s plans.

All-out war is likely on 8 September, after sources said Minerva is very unlikely to meet with KiFin representatives before the showdown.