Unwired shareholders go slow on Seven takeover bid

The bulk of shareholders in ASX-listed Unwired are yet to respond to Seven's proposed takeover of the wireless company, with only 21 percent of shareholders accepting the AU$127 million deal to date.

The bulk of shareholders in ASX-listed Unwired are yet to respond to Seven's proposed takeover of the wireless company, with only 21 percent of shareholders accepting the AU$127 million deal to date.

Seven, either directly or via its 33 percent stake in VoIP provider Engin, already owned 19.8 percent of Unwired on the day the bid was announced.

This means that only one to two percent of Unwired shareholders have agreed to the offer since, despite it being unanimously recommended by Unwired's board. The offer closes 8 November.

Little was said about Seven's proposed offer at Unwired's AGM held this morning -- aside from a reiteration of the board's unanimous recommendation for the offer in the absence of a superior funding proposal.

"Continuing uncertainty over funding has had a negative effect on Unwired's share price," said chairman Mike Burgess.

Analysts expect the majority of Unwired's shareholders to wait until the last minute before formally accepting or rejecting Seven's bid.

With a large volume of shares owned by founders and directors of the company, Seven is likely assured of a controlling stake in the very least, although the broadcaster hopes to acquire 90 percent of Unwired shares, which it wants for outright ownership of the company.

Unwired shareholders have reported receiving unsolicited phone calls by Seven holding company Network Investment Holdings, tracking the progress of Seven's offer. On 19 and 20 October, shareholders report being called at their homes or on their mobile phones by representatives of Network.

According to three investors, two of which spoke with ZDNet Australia on the condition of anonymity, the caller introduced himself, asked if the shareholder was aware of Seven's offer, asked if the shareholder had received the takeover pack, and finally whether they had read the takeover offer.

When each of the shareholders answered yes, the shareholders were asked why they hadn't approved and returned the offer.

Richard Bean, general counsel for Unwired told ZDNet Australia it is a normal practice for acquiring companies to pay a fee to access a copy of a target's shareholder register.

"It's a part of any bidder's practice to ring around and find out how the offer is going," he said.

Shareholders contacted by Network claim they were approached on phone numbers they would never register nor give permission to pass on to third parties.

Unwired shareholder Ben Seberry was contacted on his mobile number on 19 October. He has since checked with both his broker and shareholder and found that neither held his mobile number on file.

A second investor, with a portfolio of under 50,000 shares, was contacted at his home by a representative of Network on October 20 at around 11am.

The investor said there was no way he would have given out his home number to Unwired. He said he has been trading in shares for many years, but has "never been contacted at home by any companies I own shares in, let alone a company that I have never had any association with."

Several Unwired shareholders feel the Seven offer undervalues the company -- with one setting up a site to encourage other investors to fight the takeover.

None, however, raised any questions during the formalities of the AGM.

Unwired CEO David Spence told shareholders at the AGM that Unwired now has 75,000 subscribers and reported a 44 percent increase in revenues.

Unwired's AGM was buoyed by networking giant Cisco Systems' acquisition of Unwired supplier Navini Networks announced earlier this week.

"Mobile WiMax is no longer a future technology," said Burgess in his address. "It is a current reality."

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