Pernod Ricard, the French company that controls Polish food and liquor exporter Agros, has denied that US hedge fund company, Highwood Partners has started legal proceedings against Agros Holdings.

Reports appeared in the Polish press yesterday that Highwood Partners, a minority shareholder in Agros, was taking the Polish firm to the Warsaw Registration Court for its failure to call a shareholder's meeting after repeated requests from Highwood.

However, Pernod Ricard spokesman Alain-Serge Delaitte said: "As far as we know they [Highwood] have not taken any legal action so far."

According to the press reports Highwood is asking the court to force Agros to convene the meeting. Agros, it said, has ignored more than one request, since 18 August, to call a meeting to discuss the details of the distribution agreement set up in February between Agros and Pernod Ricard.

Highwood is also demanding the appointment of an independent expert to assess the transfer of export rights of certain vodkas to Pernod Ricard.

But Delaitte said that far from being ostracised, Highwood had been involved only last Friday in a board meeting, where representatives of all the minority shareholders were present.

Pernod Ricard and Highwood have been in an on going battle over Agros since Pernod orchestrated a takeover of the Polish firm. Highwood claims Pernod Ricard failed to make an offer for the remaining shares when it entered Agros as strategic investor in the autumn of last year, purchasing 37% of shares and 75% of votes in the company. Highwood also accuses Pernod Ricard of refusing to free up a second board seat and of signing licence agreements with Agros that are unfavourable for the Polish company.

Delaitte told just-drinks.com: "We do not intend to show the distribution agreement to anyone. It is not usual to show one to a third party be they a shareholder or not. Highwood has claimed we are damaging the value of Agros, but alcohol is only 3% of Agros sales and this is an agreement that provides vodkas with a global reach for the first time."

He added: "Furthermore, the prices Agros is selling vodkas to Pernod Ricard are higher or the same as previous distributors."

He said the takeover was supervised by the Warsaw Stock Exchange, and is in accordance with the authorities of Poland. "Highwood," he said, "wants to create a fuss with the media until the management buys them out, we will not do this. They bought in and now they are trapped."

For the Polish press opinion on Highwood and Pernod Ricard click here:

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