April 6 (Reuters) - Dignity’s largest shareholder, Phoenix Asset Management, said on Tuesday it was not looking to control the funeral services company or its board as it seeks to oust the firm’s chairman at a vote later this month.
Phoenix, which holds just short of 30% of the London-listed firm, last month called for a general meeting to remove Dignity’s Executive Chairman Clive Whiley as a director and appoint the fund’s Chief Investment Officer Gary Channon as an executive director.
In an open letter bit.ly/3mqkD8A on March 31, Phoenix had said it uncovered "very serious issues" in Dignity's prepaid funeral plan business, called pre-need, and was unhappy with how Whiley dealt with the matter.
Phoenix issued a statement on Tuesday following the letter and subsequent meetings with other shareholders to clarify it had no desire to control the board or make a bid for the company.
It also said if it lost the vote on April 22, the day of the general meeting, Dignity had informed it the company would remove the fund’s board representative.
Dignity did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Phoenix’s statement and the issues regarding the pre-need business.
Last week, Dignity recommended shareholders to vote against the resolution to remove its chairman, who was appointed in 2019, and said it was “unnecessary” at a time when the firm had been making progress towards a strategic review.
Dignity, which owns about 800 funeral locations in Britain, is also dealing with another potential probe by the country’s watchdog into the industry and a forthcoming introduction of new regulations that could affect its pre-need business.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said in December it still has serious concerns about the lack of transparency in the sector and may consider conducting another investigation when the coronavirus crisis stabilises. (Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)