Retired shareholders picket Londis agm

The Irish Times

A GROUP of retired B shareholders picketed the annual general meeting of ADM Londis yesterday to highlight claims of discrimination following the conversion of the company to an unlisted plc in 2004.

The B shareholders’ ADM Londis plc Representative Group includes founder members of the original Allied Dublin Merchants Ltd, formed in the 1950s and from which the present company emerged. A 1998 rule change created a new class of B shares, which were held by members of the then co-operative, Allied Distributive Merchants Ltd.

‘To hold B shares, one had to have been an ordinary shareholder trading member of the company and to have ceased trading with them for a period of 12 months,’ spokesman Kevin Mansfield said.

‘At the 1998 agm, members voted, en masse, in favour of the rule change, confident that the value of their B shares would rank pari passu [equal in all respects] with the A shares at all times.’

However, the B shareholders were dismayed to find that their shareholdings retained only their face value of IR£6,000 (€7,618) after the company converted to an unlisted plc in 2004, while the value of the standard-holding A shares increased significantly.

‘We are still hoping that they will negotiate with us, that would be the ideal outcome,’ Mr Mansfield said.

A spokesman for Londis said: ‘The values and rights attaching to B shares in ADM Londis Group plc are as proposed to and as overwhelmingly approved by shareholders in 1998.’

One group member in his late 70s travelled by bus from Co Monaghan to the meeting in Naas, Co Kildare, while another, Cecil Manning, was a founder member of ADM in 1954.

Mr Mansfield said a senior counsel had been briefed on their complaint, but added that the group hoped to avoid legal action if possible.

‘We are looking for some sort of equity,’ Mr Mansfield said.

‘I worked for 16 years, I did two spells on the board and I was just thrown out.’

‘We have affidavits from the former chairman and chief executive of the company at the time of the change to B shares, saying it was never their understanding that B shares would be devalued in this way.’