13 February 2016

Marland group moves into broker

Robert Tyerman

Former Tory treasurer Lord Marland, Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross and others plan to put £5 million into diversified stockbroker WH Ireland.

The powerful consortium, whose other members include investment banker Rupert Lowe, a former chairman of Southampton Leisure and director of the London International Financial Futures Exchange, has already paid £1.7 million at 100p a share for 9.9 per cent of Manchester-based WH Ireland. This move, which could have significant implications for the future of the company, is the first step in a process that the consortium hopes will bring it 26 per cent of an enlarged WH Ireland.

It follows one full takeover offer and another partial bid, both of which the company rejected. Under the purchase agreement, Lowe is to become non-executive chairman of the company, replacing former Conservative minister Sir David Trippier, and the entrepreneurial Marland, a financier and previously a leading light at Lloyd’s insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson, joins the board as a non-executive director.

WH Ireland’s two largest shareholders, chief executive Laurie Beevers and managing director David Youngman, are selling parts of their holdings for £877,341 and £438,670 respectively. Subject to regulatory approval by the end of June, the consortium will buy another £1 million worth of shares, including £372,872 from Beevers, Youngman and associates, and then buy five million new shares at 100p each, taking its stake to 26 per cent.

The declared strategy is to expand WH Ireland, which made a flat £3.8 million last year on turnover up 41 per cent to £42.7 million through diversification, with possible acquisitions, following a recent £300,000 wealth management takeover, and partnerships. Beevers, who helped steer the company into corporate finance for junior resource companies from Australia and elsewhere, hopes the deal will help erase the company's 'provincial image' and enthuses that Marland and Lowe ‘are committed to supporting and developing the diversified strategy we have successfully pursued since our AIM admission in 2000’.

The shares, up 3.5p this morning to 111p and valuing WH Ireland at £18.9 million, are, in fact, 4p below the original AIM admission price, having fallen from 194p last October. Investors will hope the new backing and board members will speed recovery.

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