Battle lines were being drawn over the proposal to merge Costcutter and Nisa-Today's as the management launched a charm offensive to win over shareholders - and outlined their goals exclusively to The Grocer.
As a gesture of goodwill, Nisa-Today's has appointed Rothschilds to act as a financial adviser for retail and wholesale members.
Letters have been issued to all retail and wholesale customers. Roadshows start on Wednesday.
Nisa-Today's claimed combining the companies would achieve annual cost savings of £6m. Investment bank Kaupthing, which would take an 18% stake, would help to grow the new company through acquisitions. The deal would also supply capital to cut prices and boost services.
But critics said that it would dilute the mutuality of Nisa-Today's. Currently, the company is wholly owned by retail and wholesale members. But after the merger, these members would own 40%, with the rest owned by Kaupthing, Costcutter and Nisa-Today's board members. Opponents said this meant independents would have less say over how the company was run. They were also unconvinced that the capital released would outweigh the combined £125m debt. Retailers and wholesalers opposed to the merger met on Monday, when it was claimed as many as 10% of Nisa-Today's membership were represented. But more than a quarter of shareholders need to vote against the merger to block it. A steering committee is being set up to organise meetings and the group has hired solicitor David Greene to represent its views.
Bob Surridge, MD of Anglian Convenience Stores, said he wanted hard facts about the proposals.Nisa-Today's retailer Kishor Patel said: "They are selling this on the basis it will bring more benefits, but I haven't seen that clearly demonstrated so far."
Rod Addy
Senior reporter