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ShareSoc Blog

This blog gives you the latest topical news plus some informal comments on them from ShareSoc’s directors and other contributors. These are the personal comments of the authors and not necessarily the considered views of ShareSoc. The writers may hold shares in the companies mentioned. You can add your own comments on the blog posts, but note that ShareSoc reserves the right to remove or edit comments where they are inappropriate or defamatory.

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Ventus and Ventus 2 VCTs– obstacles to a level playing field in unseating directors

By Cliff Weight, ShareSoc Director I was pleased to see the highly respected and influential Investors Chronicle taking an interest in and writing a balance article on the Ventus funds, see https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/comment/2019/07/18/limits-of-influence/ The IC seems to think ShareSoc is leading and driving the campaign, whereas the campaign leader is Nick Curtis, but other than this point I think it is a very good article. What is becoming apparent is how extremely difficult it is to unseat directors, because the playing field is tilted so ...

Pay at HSBC and Santander, Net Worth, Duplicate Dividends and Persimmon

Apparently bankers still live in an unreal world so far as most of us are concerned, even after the financial crisis of ten years ago when their remuneration was attacked. The Financial Times covered two stories on the pay of bankers in today’s edition (16/7/2019). The first was on the opposition to pay at Standard Chartered and comments from the CEO, Bill Winters, on it after a vote of almost 40% against their pay policy in May. The concern is mainly ...

Albion – Yet another VCT problem case

Albion Venture Capital Trust plc is proposing to rebase the incentive fee for its investment manager. The proposal looks too generous and will result in far too much of the value going to the managers and too little to shareholders. The new proposed threshold of RPI plus 2% is too low and the 20% share is too high. It would be very bad precedent if this was passed and became the norm for other VCTs. I recommend shareholders attend the AGM ...

Daily Mail, 14 July 2019, Thomas Cook – misleading investors?

Cliff Weight asks if Thomas Cook were misleading investors and if the FCA should investigate. https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-7246503/Thomas-Cook-slammed-misleading-investors-lifeline.html The 3 May RNS looks unduly optimistic in the light of today’s announcement. Thomas Cook’s directors need to be held to account for making such positive statements, which may have misled many individual investors. The shares were shorted over 10% before the 12 July announcement. This suggests the directors were slow to act to inform the market. Individual investors have a right to be treated fairly and prima ...

Renold Accounts, Audit Quality and Abnormal Price Movements

Chain maker Renold (RNO) has provided the latest example of sloppy accounting work. On the 9th July it reported that it had identified accounting issues in the three years ending March 2017, 2018 and 2019. Assets and profits were overstated and liabilities were understated in the Torque Transmission division. In total adjusted operating profits were overstated by £1.8 million. As a result the AGM is being postponed to give time for revising the Annual Accounts. Their auditors are Deloitte. The Financial Reporting ...

Inheritance Tax Simplification – Perhaps

On Friday (5th July) the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) published their second report on the simplification of Inheritance Tax (IHT). You only need to read the report to see how complex it is at present. They have made some recommendations for changes but they are relatively minor. Major changes were ruled out. Even the suggested changes need to be accepted by the Treasury so they may not be implemented, and even if they are it appears likely that they would ...

Redcentric (RCN) Campaign: Important Developments

There have been important developments in our campaign regarding the accounting scandal at IT service group, Redcentric. Firstly the FRC have moved at "lightning speed" (by their usually interminable standards), and published their findings in little more than two years after the matter was brought to their attention. And secondly there is news on the parallel FCA investigation in Redcentric's recently published annual results for 2018/19. FRC Report The FRC concluded that Redcentric's auditors, PwC, did not meet expected professional standards in their audits ...

Ventus and Ventus 2 – Voting Recommendations from ShareSoc – 28 June 2019

ShareSoc, the UK Individual Shareholders Society, has a campaign called the ShareSoc VCT Investors Group who campaign against egregious fees and long tenure NEDs and is supportive of the Ventus shareholder resolutions submitted by the Requisitioners.  Some of the background is in my 18 June blog https://www.sharesoc.org/blog/vcts/vct-investor-group-ventus-ventus-2-vct-shareholder-resolutions/ We welcome the changes recently announced and we are glad that the Boards have responded to shareholder concerns and have engaged with ShareSoc. ShareSoc’s recommendations for the Ventus and Ventus 2 AGMs which are being held ...

Bonmarché Update, FCA Grilling over Woodford and Amati AIM VCT AGM

Yesterday Bonmarché (BON) conceded defeat in its opposition to a takeover bid at 11.4p. On the 17th May it had rejected the bid because it “materially undervalues Bonmarché and its prospects”. The share price of this women’s clothing retailer was over 100p a year ago but the latest trading review suggests sales are dire because of underlying weakness in the clothing market and “a lack of seasonal weather”. Auditors might have qualified the accounts due to be published soon due to ...

Shareholder Rights Being Eroded

There is a good article in the Financial Times today (Saturday 22/6/2019) which is headlined “UK shareholder rights being eroded”. As the article says, almost no investors who buy shares legally own the shares they have bought, which rather surprises them. That’s because most of them buy via nominee accounts operated by stockbrokers and platforms. Not only that, but most nominee accounts are “pooled” accounts so even identifying who are the “beneficial owners” is not always easy. Does it matter? Yes it ...
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