I attended the Annual General Meeting of housebuilders Berkeley Group today. Lots of questions from shareholders this year (apparently there were none last year), and a request for there to be a presentation in future. That I supported as it is also ShareSoc’s policy. A full report is also available to full members. Some of the comments from Chairman Tony Pidgeley were most interesting. It included his solution to how to solve the housing crisis in London and the South East, but possibly not a solution that his shareholders might welcome.
One very odd document arrived in the post over the weekend – a proposal to revise the Articles of a company called British Country Inns II Plc to enable it to be listed on Asset Match. But some of the new clauses are most peculiar. For example, the directors can refuse to admit any person as a member at their absolute discretion. That would be useful to block a takeover bid would it not? The directors can also allot shares or grant options at their discretion, and also want to charge £40 simply to do a share transfer. Even for an unlisted company, these Articles are surely rather oppressive.
British Country Inns II is one of four similar EIS companies which raised funds in 2006. The financial performance since then has been very poor, and no doubt many shareholders would like to exit, which the listing on Asset Match might provide.
I have not yet managed to speak to the company Chairman on the above matter as he is conveniently on holiday. But if any other readers of this note are holders of shares in any of these EIS companies, perhaps they could contact me. The EGM to approve these changes is on the 19th September in London.