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PPCS gains more shares

By Chris Hutching

Friday 28th March 2003

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The number of listed Richmond shareholders selling out to South Island meat co-operative PPCS appears to be accelerating, with more acceptances and onmarket buying reported yesterday.

PPCS had more than 67% of Richmond shares yesterday, although nearly two-thirds are subject to non-voting and forfeiture orders from the High Court after challenges by minority Richmond shareholders.

Discounting the shares that are subject to forfeiture, PPCS needs to get at least nine million shares in the current bid.

It now has more than six million, with the takeover offer due to close on April 4, indicating that the result will be close.

The final outcome remains uncertain because PPCS has an appeal lodged in which it will seek to overturn the earlier forfeiture order.

The PPCS and Richmond parties may also seek further direction of the High Court depending on the outcome next week.

Last week PPCS wrote to several minority Richmond shareholders asking them to declare any relevant interests in their shares.

The move suggests PPCS is suspicious Richmond shareholders may be warehousing shares with other parties to create voting blocs against PPCS.

Richmond minorities have fought tooth and nail over the past five years to prevent the PPCS takeover for reasons that some analysts describe as parochial at best but increasingly irrational under the circumstances.

The Richmond board sent a letter to shareholders mid-week reiterating its collective view that there is unlikely to be a better offer than the $3.11 a share bid from PPCS.

But chairman Sam Robinson said he still planned to reject the offer and encouraged anyone who was uncertain to consult a lawyer.

Richmond is on track for a full-year pretax profit of more than $22 million, compared with last year's loss of $6 million.

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