Activist company

Countryside’s largest shareholder urges company to find buyer after inclusive bid

  • Browning West supports strategic review – letter
  • The shareholder anticipates significant interest from potential buyers
  • Following the rejection of Inclusive Capital’s offer

LONDON, June 2 (Reuters) – The biggest shareholder in British carmaker Countryside Partnerships (CSPC.L) has urged the board to find a buyer for the group and include Inclusive Capital, which has made two offers for the company, in the sales process.

US activist fund Browning West, which owns 15.3% of Countryside, urged the board to conduct a strategic review of the group, which it said would perform better as a private company or in the part of a larger company after the board’s actions led to “significant destruction of shareholder value”.

The letter, dated May 30 and seen by Reuters, follows two offers to buy the company by Inclusive Capital (In-Cap), Countryside’s third-largest shareholder.

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Countryside said on Monday it had rejected the San Francisco-based investor’s “undervalued” takeover offer, which valued the company at around 1.47 billion pounds ($1.84 billion), a premium of up around 23% from the stock’s last close. Read more

“I urge the board to immediately undertake a thorough process to consider all strategic alternatives for the business,” Browning West founder Usman S. Nabi wrote in the letter.

A Countryside spokesperson declined to comment and referred to the company’s Monday statement, in which it said In-Cap’s offer did not take into account, among other things, its position as market leader in the construction of mixed housing.

Countryside has struggled to please shareholders in recent years and has underperformed rivals at a time when listed UK builders have benefited from strong demand for new homes. Even after the In-Cap offers, Countryside shares are down 37% this year.

Nabi called In-Cap a “credible bidder” for Countryside and said he should be included in a sale process, although he didn’t say the board should accept the current offer.

In-Cap, a sustainability-minded activist fund led by hedge fund veteran Jeff Ubben, said Monday it had made two approaches to the company’s board, which declined to engage with the company. investment company and to give it access for due diligence.

Among the “mistakes” made by the board, Nabi said it was slow to replace its chairman and chief executive, who resigned in January.

Browning West has long been a thorn in management’s side. Countryside’s then chairman resigned in 2020 after the shareholder called for him to leave and for his own representative to join the board amid efforts to break up the company.

Browning West partner Peter Lee joined the board in January.

Nabi said he had received calls from other major shareholders who wanted Countryside to conduct a strategic review, and several of them had approached the board with their views. He did not identify the other shareholders

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Reporting by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes and Simon Jessop; Additional reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil; Editing by Jan Harvey

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