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Last Updated: Friday, 24 September, 2004, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
British Energy seeks to delist
British Energy's falling share price (Thomson Financial)
British Energy wants to delist from the stock market so it can stop rebel shareholders from derailing its 5bn restructuring plan.

The firm said it needs to delist so it can secure a deal with creditors.

Rebel shareholders have opposed its restructuring plans and nearly forced the company into administration.

British Energy was once one of the UK's largest listed companies but last year's low power prices hit the nuclear energy company's finances hard.

The firm's shares fell further on Friday down 25p in early morning trade to 15.00p after falling 16% on Thursday.

'Dismayed'

The East Kilbride-based nuclear generator said it wanted to delist from the UK stock exchange by 21 October and also wants to cancel its US stock market listing.

Once it has delisted, and hindered the rebellion by two shareholders, it will have a meeting on 22 October.

What next for shareholders
Sep 24: Shareholders get official notice of British Energy's intention to delist
Oct 20: Shareholders must decide whether to sell or keep shares by this date
Oct 21: Trading in British Energy shares is likely to end
Oct 22: Shareholders get a chance to air their grievances at extraordinary general meeting

"We have taken the decision to seek delisting with great reluctance but it is necessary to safeguard the interests of British Energy," said chairman Adrian Montague.

Mr Montague warned that if shareholders block the rescue, creditors would seek immediate payment of the 1.3bn owed.

That could force the company into administration, leaving the shareholders with nothing, he said.

The rebel shareholders are still expected to push for a vote on the delisting at the meeting even though it will be largely irrelevant since British Energy will have already quit the stock market by then.

One of the disgruntled shareholders, Polygon Investment Partners, said: "We are dismayed at what we see as the complete disregard this move shows for the company's shareholders.

"Polygon reserves its rights against both the company, and personally against each of its directors in this matter."

In a separate legal action British Energy failed to prevent Polygon from calling an Extraordinary General Meeting, EGM, after it was thrown out of court in New York on Thursday.

Shareholder row

British Energy has become embroiled in an increasingly bitter battle with two leading shareholders over its restructuring plans.

Under the terms of an agreement British Energy struck last year, the firm's creditors agreed to waive 1.3bn in debt in return for control of the company.

Existing shareholders would however receive only 2.5% of the shares of the restructured firm and they argue that the deal undervalues the company because power prices have risen since then.

Polygon and Brandes Investment Partners, which own 10% of the generator's shares between them, want better terms for shareholders and want to vote on British Energy's plan to delist.

Voting rights?

But British Energy has said that if there was a vote on delisting and shareholders voted against it, it would scupper the creditors' agreement.

Nuclear reactor
If for any reason British Energy is unable to implement the agreed restructuring it may be unable to meet its financial obligations
British Energy

Breaching the agreement could also threaten continued government financial support for the firm, British Energy believes.

On Wednesday, British Energy received EU approval for its restructuring plan, which is being partly financed by an estimated 3.5bn of state aid.

Ultimately, if the creditor agreement fails, the company could be forced into insolvency, hence British Energy's reluctance to allow shareholders to vote.

The irony for shareholders is that if the delisting was to take place in six months time, then British Energy would not be able to ignore their demand for a vote.

Under new regulations to be introduced by Financial Services Authority before the end of the year, companies would have to seek shareholder approval before they withdraw from the stock market.

Hard choices

Investors now face a choice of selling their shares before 21 October or retaining their holdings in what will become a private company.

Once the firm leaves the stock market, it will become more difficult for investors to buy and sell their shares and the value of their investment is unlikely to change greatly.

Although financial insitutions control 70% of British Energy's shares, 215,000 private investors still have a stake in the company's future.

Most of these investors bought shares in the company when it was privatised in 1996.

Five years ago, British Energy shares were worth more than 7 each, giving the company a market value of more than 1bn.




SEE ALSO:
British Energy plans challenged
03 Sep 04  |  Business
Energy firm confirms relocation
27 Aug 04  |  Scotland
British Energy warnings 'ignored'
06 Feb 04  |  Business


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