August 8, 2022

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Liberum: redemption day Goodwill has been in short supply at Liberum, the employee-owned boutique broker,...

Liberum: redemption day
Goodwill has been in short supply at Liberum, the employee-owned boutique broker, which is ringing in the festive season with a forcible squeeze on its own shareholders.
In July, Liberum’s board began a programme to simplify its capital structure by buying back so-called growth shares held by existing and former staff. Holders were advised to sell on the company’s internal marketplace to avoid a mandatory buy-in. The G shares, which carry equal voting and dividend rights to the ordinaries but add a redemption clause in the event of a listing, accounted for about a quarter of the total in issue at the start of the year.
With the clean-up now largely complete, holdouts this month received a letter that laid out the repurchase terms. They say Liberum has set its final offer at around a 30 per cent discount to the prevailing price. Liberum declined to comment on the terms offered.
Why have the holders resisted selling earlier? A suspicion among some is that Liberum has been tidying its ownership structure in mind of a potential sale, though company insiders insisted there was nothing happening to support that idea.
Liberum, which last year reported an £800,000 profit on revenue of £45.9m, is no stranger to takeover speculation. In 2018 it was approached by Macquarie, the Australian investment banking group, and has been linked before and since with numerous City mid-cap peers including Bob Diamond’s Panmure Gordon.
Nick Train: off track
Tough times continue for stockpicker Nick Train. The Lindsell Train co-founder was back on the defensive this week after posting a “disappointing” performance for his £2.1bn Finsbury Growth & Income trust fund.
FG&I delivered a total return of 10.6 per cent for the year to September while its benchmark, the FTSE All-Share index, gained 27.9 per cent. Consumer and financial sectors are common themes among the 17 stocks that make up 98 per cent of the portfolio, which includes large-cap laggards such as Burberry, Manchester United, Unilever and Hargreaves Lansdown.
But Train remained confident in his strategy, having last year shrugged off criticism after breaching regulatory limits around portfolio concentration. By “seeking to invest only in good businesses” the fund can limit its exposure to blow-ups while still “delivering the returns shareholders require”, he said.
“We have no quibble with any rejoinder that what we do is risky,” Train told investors in a lengthy update that set out reasons for all 17 investments. “Holding such big positions exposes shareholders to the risk of outsize capital losses if something existentially bad befalls any of the companies.”
Ben Van Bueren: mission to Moscow
That Shell shareholders would approve its move of headquarters from The Hague to London always looked like a foregone conclusion. Not much has been said therefore about the decision by Ben van Beurden, Shell’s soon-to-relocate chief executive, to put his Netherlands home on the market 11 days before the shareholder vote.
Van Beurden listed for sale his family estate in Wassenaar, an upscale suburb of The Hague, on November 30 for an asking price of €6.5m. Photos in the online ad have been arranged to show as little personality as an estate agent property stager can provide.
One curiosity remains, however. Pictured in a bedside table, underneath coffee table books about Turner and Rodin, is a boxed edition of Book On Russia. A doorstep tome published to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War, it explains Russia’s recent history through pictorials about fighter jets, poets and cattle. The book is often given to Kremlin VIP visitors and is available in unboxed form from the presidential office gift shop for 5,190 roubles (about £53).
Ben van Beurden met with president Vladimir Putin in June 2019 and in October made an unpublicised trip to Moscow for a Foreign Investment Advisory Council round-table event chaired by Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin. Book On Russia received its first English translation in December 2020, so is likely to be a souvenir from the latter.

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