Tindall wants Warehouse back

Sir Stephen Tindall, founder of New Zealand's largest retail chain The Warehouse Group, would buy back the company tomorrow - if he could.

But Takeovers Panel rules make it difficult, he told BusinessDay.

Although he and family interests together hold just over half of the NZX-listed company, takeover regulations do not recognise the shareholding as belonging to a single entity. Sir Stephen holds 83m shares or 26.69 per cent of the company. The Tindall Foundation, a charitable family trust of which Sir Stephen is a trustee, holds 66.3m shares or 21.31 per cent of the company. Members of the Tindall family hold 7.1m shares through three family trusts or 2.3 per cent.

Anyone with between 50 per cent to 90 per cent of voting rights in a company can increase his/her stake through a "creeping" provision which permits incremental acquisitions each year. Sir Stephen said their shareholding does not qualify under this provision though.

Asked if he would have liked to buy back the company given the opportunity, he said "Absolutely."

"If I could creep, I would," he said.

He also has reaffirmed his and his family's commitment to the big Red sheds in a passionate speech to shareholders at the company's annual meeting today.

Sir Stephen, who made a special address to mark the company's 30th anniversary, said he and his family hoped to stay with the Warehouse for another 30 years.

"It's something I've never talked about publicly," he said.

The Warehouse opened its first store in Takapuna, Auckland in 1982. Sir Stephen said the decision to float the company in 1994 was spurred by the opening of retail giant K Mart. "We needed some grunt...we raised $34m in that year and all of it went on property," he said.

"We opened 21 stores with that capital."

Shareholders today approved Sir Stephen's reacquisition of 1m shares from the company's former chief executive and managing director Ian Morrice. The acquisition is a technicality which "unwinds a transaction" made between the two men in 2004. It will move Sir Stephen and associated family interests in the company from 50.31 per cent to 50.63 per cent.

Fairfax Media