At a special shareholder meeting held yesterday, Bacardi Limited shareholders approved a bye-law that gives the company's board of directors the authority to issue a second class of shares,  previously authorized in May of 2003.

The amendment was affirmed by more than two-thirds of all outstanding shares, as was required by the company's by-laws.The board, however, will still have to vote by a two-thirds majority to actually issue the second class of shares.

Ruben Rodriguez, chairman of the board, said: "With this positive vote, the company has secured the financial flexibility that it may need to continue to grow in this competitive environment and to maximize shareholder value. This completes the cycle that has taken more than two years and included enhancing the company's corporate governance to much higher standards."

In the case of an initial public offering, the board cannot issue the shares until January 1, 2005 at the earliest. However, it would be able to use the amendment to facilitate a private transaction should it present itself earlier.

Bacardi said the board has no current plans to issue the second class of shares.

Under the plans, any float would see up to 30% of Bacardi's shares sold to public investors. However, these investors would only be able to buy class B shares. These shares would carry only one vote, whereas Class A shares hold 10 votes. Otherwise Class A and B shares would carry the same share price and dividend.