Mumbai: Activist shareholders of Orient Express have forced a meeting of the company's shareholders to vote to cancel the powers of the promoters to veto hostile bids to take over the luxury hotel chain. The proposal to reclassify the shares, if approved at a meeting next month, will give the Tata Group an increased voting power in the Bermuda-based hotel firm.
The Tata Group-controlled Indian Hotels Company, which holds an 11.5-per cent stake in Orient Express Hotels (OEH), will increase its voting power from the current 2.2 per cent once the shareholders agree to annul the powers of the class B shares.
Orient Express had earlier rejected Indian Hotels' attempts for a business alliance, following which some of the hedge fund investors in the company have raised their concerns over the hotel firm's corporate structure. (See: Orient-Express turns down Taj group overtures)
Apart from the Tata Group's 11.5 per cent stake, two hedge funds run by billionaire investors Steven Cohen and D E Shaw together also hold 14.3 per cent stake in OEH through the company's market-traded Class A shares.
The Class A shares, however, may have around five per cent of the voting rights despite the near 26 per cent shareholding.
A majority of the voting power is vested with Class B shares, which are not traded in the market and are entirely held by Bermuda-based promoter holding entity Orient-Express Holdings Ltd.
An approval by shareholders to curb the voting might of the Class B shares, would make Orient Express a takeover target, sources said.
Tatas may opt to sell their holding in case of an offer from any other party once the shareholders meeting approves the proposal for equal voting rights for holders of both Class A and Class B shares, reports said.
However, the shareholders approval would have to be further approved by the holders of Class B shares at a separate meeting to be held after the first meeting.
OEH's board has attributed motives to the voting proposal and has advised shareholders to vote against them.