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Bramson demands Electra Private Equity call EGM

Electra Private Equity has 21 days to convene an extraordinary general meeting following a requisition by shareholder activist Edward Bramson.

 
Bramson demands Electra Private Equity call EGM

Activist investor Edward Bramson (pictured) has stepped up his campaign against Electra Private Equity (ELTA ) demanding seats on the board for himself and the former chairman of his Sherborne investment company.

Sherborne Investors, a 19% shareholder in the £945 million trust, yesterday requisitioned Electra to convene a general meeting to give shareholders a vote on electing Bramson and Ian Brindle as directors and removing Geoffrey Cullinan, a former director of Bain & Co, the private equity group, who has been an Electra director since 2011.

Electra has 21 days from the requisition to notify shareholders and a further 28 days from that data in which to hold the meeting.

If successful, Bramson intends to conduct a strategic review aimed at improving returns for Electra investors, although he has not indicated where improvements could be made. In a statement it claimed it could unlock 'substantial opportunities' for the trust's shareholders.

In response Electra defended its strategy and said it would oppose the election of Bramson and Brindle as neither would be independent non-executives. It said: 'The board has always listened, and will continue to listen, to the views of shareholders consistent with enhancing long-term shareholder value.'  

Bramson won respect for his turnaround of F&C Asset Management in 2011-13 but his focus on Electra this year has bemused some commentators. Although some private equity investment trusts are still recovering from the financial crisis, Electra has the second best ten-year performance in its sector, returning a total 272% compared to 136% from the FTSE All Share. It lies second over three years too with a shareholder return of 85%, although the more recent track record has been boosted by Bramson, whose arrival on the register has narrowed the discount on the shares from 18% to just over 8%.

Iain Scouller of Oriel Securities described it as a 'rather bizarre saga'. He believed institutional shareholders would back Electra, particularly if Bramson proposed the trust borrow money in order to fund a payment to shareholders.

After Sherborne, Electra's biggest shareholders are Prudential, Schroders and Investec. In the past month the Pru has reduced its stake from nearly 10% to under 8%.

Bramson's challenge has perhaps helped concentrate Electra's mind too. This year has been a busy period for the trust which has made a string of new investments in unquoted companies, including Ogier Fiduciary Services, Innovia, the maker of films for polymer bank notes, DiGiCo, the professional audio group, and the Southview and Manor leisure parks.

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