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METTLE’S DELISTING BID DRAWS PASSIVE RESPONSE

Cape Town – Niche financial services company Mettle was on track with its delisting plan – the second in about a year – which managing director Gavin O’Connor said had been passively received by the market. Mettle’s shares on the JSE Securities Exchange would be suspended on June 9 and the company would not be listed after June 18. The docile response by the market to Mettle’s second delisting attempt was in marked contrast to the opposition it encountered from institutional shareholders in its first bid to leave the JSE just over a year ago. At the time Investec Asset Management led the pack, which was unhappy with Mettle’s buyout offer of 60c a share. This time around majority shareholder Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) has offered Mettle minorities 50c a share after snapping up 38 million shares in the company at 43c a share earlier this year, pushing its stake in Mettle to 52.1 percent and triggering an automatic buyout offer. Unconfirmed talk in the market was that HCI picked up a chunk of the 38 million shares from Investec Asset Management.   HCI is also considering delisting the company after a buyout offer of R3.50 a share from a management consortium including chief executive John Copelyn and chairman Marcel Golding. However, HCI has encountered fierce opposition from UK-based investor Marathon Asset Management, which has a stake of about 23 percent in HCI. Last week, Mettle reinforced its unconventional image with an advertisement of a painted bronze sculpture by Brett Murray, the winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year 2002 award.  This followed hot on the heels of its comic book-style annual report last year – a first in the industry. O’Connor said the advertisement highlighted the idiosyncratic way in which the company did business.  “We are associating ourselves with creative, risky, leading young artists in the country that expand people’s thinking. We see our business in much the same way,” O’Connor said. Mettle’s shares closed unchanged at 49c in Johannesburg yesterday.

Source: Business Report – Vera von Lieres