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Vertex papers do the rounds

By Nick Stride

Friday 8th August 2003

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Packaging group Vertex is trying to track down the perpetrators of a dirty-tricks campaign apparently aimed at further discrediting the company.

A bundle of documents purporting to be Vertex internal information was last week sent anonymously to The National Business Review and to the New Zealand Shareholders' Association.

Among the documents was a chart with a Vertex logo and figures for first quarter sales and earnings, broken down by division.

Asked to verify that the chart was genuine, managing director Paddy Boyle at first declined to comment. He later said the documents had been obtained illegally, then said some but not all the sales and ebit figures were incorrect.

At the annual meeting on Monday chairman George Gould said the company was meeting its sales and earnings budgets but did not give details.

Shareholders' Association chairman Bruce Sheppard said he had requested a meeting with the company to verify whether the documents were genuine. Depending on the outcome of the meeting, he said, he might send the documents to the Stock Exchange and to the Securities Commission.

The document bundle was accompanied by an unsigned memo stating the author considered he or she had gained all the information asked for and that an invoice (not included in the bundle) was attached.

Vertex has angered investors with two profit forecast downgrades since it floated last July. Investors bought into the float at $2.05 but the shares have fallen as low as $1.10 and were yesterday trading at $1.70.

The market surveillance panel in March found the company had breached listing rule 10.1.1 but took no further action, drawing an angry response from the Stock Exchange.

The Securities Commission in March found Vertex's offer document was likely to mislead investors but the commission is not taking the matter further.

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