Raymond Baer Clashes With Altin CEO on Move to Take Control

  • Baer's Alpine Select fund wants $69 million and board control
  • Altin CEO asks shareholders to block Baer's proposals at EGM

Raymond Baer, a member of one of Switzerland’s most prominent private-banking dynasties, said Altin AG shareholders support his plan to take control of the investor, prompting a rebuttal from the company’s CEO

Baer, the chairman of Alpine Select AG, based in Zug, Switzerland, has asked Altin investors to approve paying out 69 million Swiss francs ($69 million) in a special dividend and replace three of four directors.

“We believe other shareholders will follow us,” Baer, who is also honorary chairman of Julius Baer Group Ltd., the third-largest Swiss wealth manager, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. He didn’t name any of the investors.

Altin trades at about a 10 percent discount to net asset value and management’s efforts to reduce the gap haven’t been sufficient, Baer said. The discount to NAV narrowed from 25 percent since Alpine Select began increasing its stake 2 1/2 years ago, he said. It’s the largest shareholder in Altin with more than 33 percent, according to Baer.

“If you have a discount of that size, you don’t have enough buyers,” he said. “It’s a systemic problem of many of those companies.”

Altin’s management last month asked investors to reject the “surprisingly hostile” move by Baer. Such a large payout would be illegal because Altin doesn’t have sufficient liquidity to settle dividend claims on time, it said. Baer said his proposal wouldn’t break Swiss law.

“We are yet to speak to a shareholder that is supportive of Alpine’s dividend proposal,” Altin Chief Executive Officer Tony Morrongiello said in an e-mail on Friday. “What we can say for certain is that there will be no interest for the shares if Alpine succeeds in its attempts to asset strip the company and in securing control of the board.”

Share-Price Discount

Altin, which has offered to support the nomination of Alpine Select board member Thomas Amstutz to the board of directors, has been addressing the share-price discount and returning capital to shareholders through buybacks, Morrongiello said in a telephone call on Thursday. The company doesn’t hold excessive cash, he said.

Altin delivered returns of 215 percent compared with 136 percent for the Hedge Fund Research HFRI FoF Index and 162 percent for the MSCI World Equities Index between 1996 and the end of January, according to the company.

Altin shares have surged about 48 percent in Zurich since the end of 2012, valuing the company at about $215 million. Alpine Select gained 3.8 percent over the same period and has a similar-size market capitalization.

Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., an advisory group, and Cantor Fitzgerald, a brokerage appointed by Altin to provide research and marketing, recommended in separate reports this week that Altin shareholders vote against Alpine Select’s proposals.

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