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Dutch institutions enter hedge fund debate

NETHERLANDS - Dutch institutional investor organisation Eumedion, representing some €800bn of assets, has demanded that Stork's majority shareholders and activist hedge funds Centaurus and Paulson take a clear position on the Dutch industrial group.

If Centaurus and Paulson hang on to their 31.4% stake in the firm, they should either make a bid or dismiss the current Stork board of commissioners, Eumedion demanded in a statement on its website.

The organisation, which represents pension funds and is a minority share holder in Stork, suspects that the two hedge funds who are pressurising Stork and supermarket operator Ahold to sell off certain subsidiaries, are "cunningly using the late implementation of the [European] take-over directives".

According to the directives, which should have been implemented in May this year, shareholders have to bid when they hold a stake of 30% or more.

However, the activist hedge funds will escape this by announcing that their stake is above 30%, as the directives are not applicable to the stakes that have been built up in the Netherlands before the legislation has been implemented - "this is possibly unfair to the minority shareholders", said Eumedion director Rients Abma in an interview with IPE.

Eumedion, which represents 3% of the entire share capital, is calling for either a complete take-over in which the funds dismiss the board of commissioners so that the hedge funds can implement a strategy for Stork that they want, make a bid for the remaining shares, or the funds should sell their shares and leave Stork alone.

Eumedion sees the situation as an example for the desperate need for the quick implementation of the European directives in the Netherlands, said Abma.

With its statement the organisation wants to effect that the government implements the directives as soon as possible, as "the government has postponed the treatment of the directives several times," - the move is unrelated to Eumedion's share holdings in Stork, Abma added.

Centaurus and Paulson are trying force Stork to continue producing plane components, for instance for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), and to sell off its other subsidiaries as they think the move will increase the firm's current stock exchange value.

The funds demanded that Stork organises a special shareholders meeting on October 19 so that they can clarify their position and demands - Stork is expected to make an announcement next week.

It was reported on Saturday that Dutch pension funds are investing in Centaurus, which Centaurus chief executive Bernard Oppetit said in an interview with Dutch newspaper NRC.

In a reaction, Dutch pension fund giant ABP, brought out a statement in which it said that does not invest in activist investment funds.

A spokesman for Centaurus said that the funds had not yet seen the statement made by Eumedion, adding that they would make a statement in due course.

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