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Minorities quit Richmond

By Chris Hutching

Friday 21st February 2003

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The minority Richmond shareholders who fought for five years to stave off a takeover by southern raider PPCS have sold down their shares over the past fortnight but are continuing their campaign in advertisements in local Hawke's Bay newspapers.

Napier lawyer Robin Bell who has led most of the legal challenges to PPCS has sold all his 100,283 shares while William Richmond has sold more than half his 253,340 shares, and other members of the group have also sold shares in differing proportions, according to the share register.

Buyers who have picked up Richmond shares over the past week include UK-owned North Meats, which now has 10.5%, and North Island meat processor Graham Lowe, with 9.9%.

Many of the transactions have been off-market.

Mr Bell denied there was anything hypocritical in the stance of his group because the letter to farmer suppliers posted in a Hawke's Bay newspaper did not urge other shareholders to take any particular action.

It was carefully worded and merely pointed out to shareholders the consequences of accepting the PPCS $3.05-a-share offer, Mr Bell said.

The letter said PPCS could not succeed in its takeover unless it obtained at least another 25% of Richmond shares.

PPCS now has 54% and with the North Meats and Lowe Holdings at just over 20%, the chances of PPCS succeeding will be close, depending on the aims of the major shareholders.

PPCS says it has received favourable replies from about 300 of the 2000 Richmond shareholders, mainly in Hawke's Bay, but many shareholders are expected to wait until the last minute in case a competing offer emerges.

The PPCS takeover offer has been extended until March 7 and company executives continue to meet Richmond farmer shareholders to assuage concerns about continuing relationships with the company and whether they will continue to enjoy a competitive level of payment for supplying stock.

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