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FTSE 100 and markets news: Boardroom wars rattle Dignity and Countryside

Graeme Evans
·2-min read
Dignity (PA Wire)
Dignity (PA Wire)

The activist shareholders stalking the boardrooms of Countryside Properties and fellow mid-cap stock Dignity found out more about the progress of their campaigns today.

The relations at Countryside appear to be a little smoother after the housebuilder today announced a new chairman to replace David Howell, who revealed plans to step down last year amid pressure to do so from Los Angeles-based hedge fund Browning West.

Countryside said former Ferguson boss John Martin will take on the role, a move that is reported to have the blessing of Browning West after the shareholder had earlier called for a break-up of the business and a role for its founder Usman Nabi.

FTSE 250 Countryside still remains under pressure, however, after it emerged yesterday that another US investor David Capital had increased its own stake in support of Browning’s ongoing campaign for change. Shares rose 3.5p to 519.5p.

At Dignity, the funeral operator today provided a firm defence against the attempts by Phoenix Asset Management to remove Clive Whiley as chairman.

Proxy voting agencies including ISS and Glass Lewis have backed Dignity by recommending shareholders vote next week against resolutions including the attempt to install Phoenix’s own founder and chief investment officer Gary Channon as executive director.

Dignity said today it was in the best interests of all shareholders to allow the current management team to finish its work in devising a new strategy for the group.

Shares rose 4% or 25p to 669p today.

The developments came during another lacklustre session for the wider London market, with the FTSE 100 index down just 3.4 points at 6,885.85 and the FTSE 250 index up 42.94 points at 22,196.75. In contrast, bitcoin was at another record high after rising to $62,645.

Recruitment firm Hays was among the risers in the second tier, up 3% or 4.8p to 164.5p, after following Page Group in reporting better-than-expected recent trading.

Signs of further progress in the turnaround of bank note printer De La Rue failed to lift its share price, which slipped 2.6p to 184.2p despite the company revealing that profits for 2020/21 will be towards the top end of the range indicated in January.

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