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Rebel Investor Wages War Over Offices Group

(c) Sky News 2013

A tussle for control of one of Britain's biggest serviced office groups has intensified with the emergence of a High Court legal battle that threatens to cloud efforts to secure its future.

Sky News understands that advisers to MWB Business Exchange, which owns 39 sites in London and is controlled by MWB Property Limited (MWBPL), have been sounding out City investors in recent days about buying the parent's stake in the subsidiary.

The attempt to find alternative investors could be complicated, however, by an increasingly complex legal case in which both companies are involved.

Pyrrho Investments, a Hong Kong-based entity which holds approximately 25% of MWB Business Exchange, has been fighting a bitter battle with Richard Balfour-Lynn, the founder of parent group MWB Group, for more than a year.

MWB Group is best-known as the owner of the Hotel du Vin and Malmaison hotel chains.

A petition was filed by Pyrrho at the Companies Court division of the High Court earlier this week - a copy of which has been reviewed by Sky News - alleging that the affairs of MWB Business Exchange had been conducted in a manner which was prejudicial to the interests of shareholders other than MWBPL.

It also accused current and former board directors of MWB Business Exchange, including Mr Balfour-Lynn, of breaching their duties to the company.

Pyrrho had previously threatened to take legal action in a situation which is fast-becoming one of London's most fractious battles involving a listed company.

People familiar with the situation said that Deloitte, which was appointed as the administrator to MWB Group in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) , has in recent days been trying to secure a higher offer for the 75% stake in the serviced offices subsidiary than a deal agreed with Regus (LSE: RGU.L - news) late last year.

In its statement announcing the proposed deal, Regus, Britain's biggest serviced offices provider, said it had received an irrevocable undertaking from MWBPL to accept its offer for its 75% stake in MWB Business Exchange.

"Pursuant to the irrevocable undertaking ... Deloitte LLP are able to market MWBPL's shareholding in Business Exchange to other potential purchasers for a period of 8 weeks [expiring tomorrow]. Potential purchasers have the opportunity to make a higher offer for MWBPL's shareholding in Business Exchange during such Marketing Period. 

"If there is any such higher offer, Regus has the right, but no obligation, to announce a revised offer for MWBPL's BX Shares. If such revised offer satisfies certain criteria, MWBPL will be obliged to accept it, even if subsequently a competing offer or announces an increase in the value of its offer."

None of the parties were available for comment.