Jamie Gray

Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the New Zealand Herald and APNZ wire agency

Dell boss joins GPG share register

Michael Dell. Photo / AP
Michael Dell. Photo / AP

Michael Dell, the man who founded Dell Computers, has joined fellow US multi-billionaire George Soros on the Guinness Peat Group share register.

MSDC Management - an affiliate of Dell's investment vehicle, MSD Capital - disclosed yesterday that it holds a 5.66 per cent sake in GPG.

GPG said that it had been informed by MSDC Management, on behalf of MSD European Opportunity Master Fund, last week that its holding had increased to 79.6 million shares.

Dell founded Dell Inc, world's third-biggest computer maker, in 1984. He is ranked by Forbes magazine as 49th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$15.3 billion ($18.9 billion).

Soros, the Hungarian-American investment guru who successfully took on the Bank of England during the British currency crisis of 1992, is ranked by Forbes as the world's 30th richest person.

Quantum Strategic Partners, a fund managed by Soros, has a 9.01 per cent stake in GPG.

MSDC's move comes at a time of increased uncertainty for GPG. The company's share price hit a low of 43c last month after the Pensions Regulator (TPR) in Britain said it was looking at whether GPG should provide financial support for the Coats and Brunel pension schemes.

The share price has since rebounded, closing yesterday unchanged at 54c, but is still short of GPG's 52-week high of 61c.

GPG, a former investment company founded by Sir Ron Brierley, is in a process of selling down assets and returning capital to shareholders.

Most of the assets have been divested, but the company intends to retain British-based Coats - a leading industrial thread and textile crafts business with 20,000 employees in more than 70 countries.

The issue of what happens with the pension schemes remains an impediment for GPG's ultimate goal of returning capital to shareholders and taking on the form of Coats. The TPR process could take many months if not years to resolve.

GPG has said its capital returns had been suspended until the situation with the regulator had been clarified.

"The local market has displayed a fair bit of revulsion towards GPG and the presence of these two people on the share register would suggest that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater," said one fund manager, whose organisation also has shares in GPG.

"If bond yields keep rising, then the pension schemes won't be a problem," he said. "It's a very large pension plan relative to the size of Coats, so it's quite sensitive to changes in both directions around investment outcomes and discount rate assumptions."

GPG's chairman said in March that some investors still bore ill-feeling towards the company for its previous lack of transparency and poor corporate governance.

"We have changed, but many people nevertheless feel the same way," he said then. According to the 2012 annual report, Brierley still has a 2.11 per cent stake in GPG.

- APNZ

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