Regions

Activist investors seek overhaul of property portfolio of British grocery chain Wm Morrison- report

January 11
6:42 AM 2014

Activist investors that have established a stake in Wm Morrison are looking for a revamp of the property portfolio of the fourth largest grocery chain in Britain in terms of market share, the Financial Times reported. The investors include Elliott Associates, considered as one of the most aggressive hedge funds in the US.

FT reported that the events add to the increasing pressure of Morrison which posted dismal results during the holiday trading period. Morrison's Chief Executive Officer Dalton Philips is facing scrutiny from the supermarket's stakeholders. Several investors told FT this week that they have concerns about the approach Philips is taking with the grocery chain. Citing people familiar with the matter, the report said the activists are looking to shake up the company's property portfolio.

Controlled by billionaire Paul Singer, Elliott is looked at as one of the most volatile of activist investors in America, FT reported. It is currently in a battle with the government of Argentina for its rejection of the government's debt restructuring proposal. The report said Elliott has stakes in several food retailers listed in the UK, citing sources.

Morrison's properties, which are valued at around £10 billion, is nearly two times its market capitalization of £5.5 billion after a sharp decline of its share price on Thursday, January 9. The company has a freehold to around 90% of the property, the report said.

According to the FT report, Philips is widely expected to say that the supermarket chain will be selling and leasing back some of its stores when he gives investors updates on the evaluation undertaken of the company's property portfolio later this 2014. However, the report said activist shareholders want more than a sale and lease back. They think that one way for the company to facilitate the creation of more value would be to take the move similar to the one taken by Loblaw. The Canadian grocer split off its property assets in 2013 and divested 20% to investors. 

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