Banknote printer firm De La Rue set for shareholder showdown after losing British blue passport contract bid
Under-fire bosses at banknote printing firm De La Rue – which earlier this year missed out on a lucrative contract to design the new blue British passport – are set for a showdown with one of their biggest critics.
Crystal Amber, an activist investment firm which has built up a stake of nearly 5 per cent in De La Rue, is due to meet the company later this month, The Mail on Sunday understands.
Activist investors build up large shareholdings to gain influence and force change at companies they feel are underperforming.
New blue: ‘We see change as inevitable,’ says Richard Bernstein
London-based Crystal Amber – which has previously targeted Aer Lingus, Thornton’s and Johnston Press – emerged as a De La Rue shareholder in April, shortly after the UK-listed firm lost out to Franco-Dutch rival Gemalto in the bidding for the passport deal.
Since then, Crystal Amber has built up its stake from 2 per cent to 4.6 per cent, making it De La Rue’s fifth largest shareholder.
It could be an uncomfortable meeting for De La Rue chief executive Martin Sutherland.
The fund’s boss, Richard Bernstein, has said he is prepared to buy more shares and told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We see change as inevitable.’ De La Rue’s share price, 473p, is 20 per cent down since it missed out on the passport contract. This shows that investors do not ‘buy into the company’s growth messaging and strategy,’ said Bernstein who has not met with De La Rue since its annual shareholder meeting in late July.
A company spokesman said: ‘De La Rue maintains an active and constructive dialogue with all its major shareholders, which includes regular face to face meetings as a matter of course.’