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British activist hedge fund Laxey rejects financing plan for Swissmetal

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Opalesque Industry Update - Swissmetal is in trouble. It recorded its third negative year in 2010; it is seriously considering mass layoffs; several managerial heads have rolled already; and one of the factories is planned to be dismantled.Reuters said on Friday that shares in the group, which focuses on specialty products made of copper and copper alloys, had tumbled 26.3% - to CHF2.80, losing half of its value in five days.

The company is trying to find a rescuer: company chairman Martin Hellweg said Swissmetal would need a “white knight” investor, reported World Radio Switzerland.

British activist hedge fund Laxey Partners owns nearly a third of the group, that is, 29%.

According to Swiss daily paper Le Temps, negotiations held on July 1st between investors and Laxey led to nowhere. Laxey, who had presented three candidates for the General Meeting, refuted a proposed financing plan - and refused to explain to Le Temps why it had done so, just when it risks losing up to 80% of its investment in the metal group.

Martin Hellweg commented that Swissmetal’s difficulties spring from the banks who are keeping hold of the company’s stocks. The Swiss government has no intention of getting involved, due to lack of “clarity.” And investors are generally sceptical with regards to its chances of survival. So Laxey might simply be cutting its losses for now.

Furthermore, Laxey Partners was recently in the news for making a second attempt in as many years to oust four directors of Singapore-listed United International Securities (UIS) – as it owns 10% of the firm. It also asked directors to explain why UIS' share price was well below the net asset value of the shares, reported the Straits Times. Also, the UK’s £3.2bn Alliance Trust recently won a battle with Laxey, who wanted to force changes.

Laxey Partners, which is registered in the Isle of Man and has offices in London, has been established 13 years and earned a reputation as a feared corporate raider through agitating at companies such as Wyevale Garden Centres and British Land to raise their share prices, said CityAm, who shortlisted the it as one of the alternative managers of the year.

B. Gravrand

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