A group of Nisa shopkeepers are making a last-ditch attempt to stop the Co-op’s £143m takeover of the convenience chain.
The deal is due to clear its final hurdle on Friday with a court hearing in London to approve a fast-track takeover process known as a scheme of arrangement.
But a group of Nisa shopkeepers calling themselves “Justice for Nisa” has hired a lawyer to represent them at the hearing, after raising a fighting fund from other disgruntled shareholders.
Last year the Nisa board recommended that the 1,190 shopkeepers who own the business accept the Co-op’s offer, which includes £20,000 up front as well as deferred payments worth more than £410,000 for those who own 250 shares in Nisa, the maximum allowed. When it was voted on in November, the deal won support from 75.8% of Nisa’s members, just over the 75% required to succeed.
The group, which is thought to represent 20 to 30 shopkeepers, has written to other shareholders advising them of their plan. “Since the vote was forced over the line by a minute majority, a group of members have been working hard to create a valid and worthwhile representation to the court hearing, objecting to the takeover on a number of grounds,” they wrote in an email. “There appears to be an ever increasing number of shareholders who regret the decision to sell and a swell of support to challenge the completion.”
Co-op takeover of Nisa faces resistance before crunch shareholder vote
The Northern Independent Supermarket Association was launched in the late 1970s, aiming to “protect the interests of independents against the insurgence of the national supermarket chains”. Nisa’s members include entrepreneurs running small chains, giving the business a network of 2,400 stores.
The Co-op offer, which valued Nisa at about 20 times its current share price, was given the green light by the Competition and Markets Authority last month.
Against a backdrop of Tesco’s £3.7bn acquisition of the wholesaler Booker, Nisa chairman Peter Hartley said it was a good deal as the convenience store environment was “changing rapidly”.
“Co-op will add buying power and product range to our offering, while respecting our culture of independence,” he said.
A Nisa spokesman said: “Nisa remains confident that all appropriate legal process has been observed throughout the scheme of arrangement and vote – which resulted in overwhelming member support for the Co-op’s acquisition.”