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Richmond shareholder to seek Privy Council reversal

Chris Hutching and Hugh Stringleman

Friday 19th December 2003

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Richmond minority shareholder Robin Bell said yesterday he and fellow shareholders who have 1.5% of the company will definitely petition the Privy Council to reverse recent court decisions over the ownership of the listed meat company.

He confirmed what he told other shareholders at the annual meeting, where he says he received support, although one shareholder was outspoken about the damage he said prolonged legal action would cause the company.

The Court of Appeal declined the Bell group's application to take its case to the Privy Council over the five-year takeover battle with South Island meat company PPCS. It must now seek the Privy Council's permission to lodge an appeal, likely to take several months.

In the meantime, Bell said he would be closely monitoring events at Richmond to ensure there were no major decisions affecting the company that would not be able to be reversed.

"The situation will go on much as it has for the past couple of years. We're not personalising this.

"At times, your knees may buckle when it seems to be never ending but you have to see things through."

An earlier High Court order forfeited a percentage of shares owned by PPCS worth about $10 million, leaving PPCS with 63% control of Richmond.

But Bell and his supporters still maintain the penalties were insignificant and want to see PPCS ordered to sell all its holding.

Meanwhile, Richmond has acknowledged a tough road ahead with a slow start to lamb processing and two months of below-budget trading.

Chairman Sam Robinson also signalled some difficulties with the intended sale of the Waitotara lamb plant for $11.5 million to CFM, a division of Anzco.

Due diligence ends tomorrow but two issues had arisen, Robinson told shareholders at the annual meeting.

"We are doing our best to resolve these issues in a mutually acceptable way, but an agreement may not be reached," he said.

Richmond and PPCS recently announced a governance basis pending the final outcome of the lengthy ownership row.

Robinson emphasised the company's strengths in lamb processing and marketing, now complemented by the experience of PPCS and Bernard Matthews, a minority shareholder.

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