West End landlord Shaftesbury’s war of words with its largest shareholder hotted up today as it announced a 5.2 per cent revenue boost in its first-half results.
The company is facing a potential £10m claim from its largest investor – Hong Kong billionaire Samuel Tak Lee.
Lee, who owns approximately 26 per cent of the company’s shares is claiming losses of around £10m in connection to a 2017 equity fundraising which he says diluted his interest and was used to block him making a takeover bid.
A spokesperson for Lee today reiterated his claim that the 2017 equity raising was not in the best interests of the company.
“Directors must always act in the best interests of all shareholders; Shaftesbury’s board failed to do this and undertook an unnecessary capital raising for an improper purpose, damaging the value of Mr Lee’s then c£700m interest in the company. Naturally, Mr Lee no longer has faith in the board to protect the value of that interest going forward,” a spokesperson said.
Speaking to City A.M., chief executive Brian Bickell said: “We have had this long running correspondence with Mr Lee, but we have never met him. We get a lot of letters from his lawyers but we don’t see that to be a dialogue.”
“It’s frustrating that he won’t come and see us. Management should be held to account by shareholders so we need to hear from him frankly.
“What happens next is up to him, we are not being distracted from running the business and the results demonstrate that.”
Shaftesbury announced today that net income from its property portfolio grew 5.2 per cent in the six months ended 31 March.
The Ftse 250 company said net property income hit £48.6m, up from £46.2m in the same period last year.
However, profit after tax fell 68.7 per cent after the growth in the valuation of its properties slowed.
Bickell said the company was insulated from the wider slowdown on the UK high street by its location in the West End and its diverse offering of shops, restaurants and bars.
“We are less exposed to what is going on in the UK nationally,” he said.
“If you want a Westfield shopping experience, go to Westfield, this is about something curated in a different way,” he added.