Barwa and Ithmar plan to de-list structural steel contractor despite opposition from minority investors

The Middle Eastern shareholders of listed structural steel contractor Panceltica look set to take it private, plunging the fate of the firm into fresh confusion this week.

According to sources close to the situation, Qatari shareholder Barwa and Dubai investor Ithmar want to de-list the company from the alternative investment market, despite the fact both voted against the move at an extraordinary general meeting last week.

The proposal had been tabled by Ithmar vehicle Strategic Partner, but it is understood both shareholders agreed to hold off and review the plan after minority investors voiced their opposition.

But one source said: “They have always wanted to take the company private and will undoubtedly get their way in the end. It’s just a matter of time.”

Panceltica floated in March 2008, but a shareholder wrangle began at the end of last year when a 2,000-unit residential job in Qatari capital Doha, on which Barwa was the client, ran into difficulties (see box).

Barwa holds 20% of the company while Strategic Land Partner holds 26.5%.

Barwa declined to comment and Ithmar was unavailable for comment.

Building understands frantic behind-the-scenes conversations are now taking place to persuade the Middle Eastern investors against taking the firm private.

Another person familiar with the situation said: “It’s all up in the air but Panceltica has the ability to build good structures and there is no reason why everyone cannot benefit from that within the regulatory framework of the stock market.”

If the company were taken private, minority investors could be left out of pocket.

To stay public, the Qatar-based company will have to appoint new non-executive directors after two were ousted last week, including chairman Andrew Huntley.

It will also need to file annual accounts, due last month.

A torrid history

January 2009 
Announces $59m (£40m) loss as a result of Barwa dispute.
Barwa ups its stake from 14% to 20% as compensation.

June 2009
Top Panceltica directors flee Qatar as dispute escalates.
Shares suspended for second time in six months amid financial uncertainty.

July 2009
Ithmar gets two directors on the board and ousts chairman Andrew Huntley.