Are Baltimore shares worth anything?

The internet security business run by Fran Rooney was a constituent of FTSE 100

 Then chief executive of Baltimore Technologies Fran Rooney in 2000. Photograph: Pat Langan

Then chief executive of Baltimore Technologies Fran Rooney in 2000. Photograph: Pat Langan

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 01:10

I bought a small number of shares in Baltimore Technologies in 2000. Am I correct in thinking that these are of no value now?

Mr TR, email

Baltimore was, for a brief time, the brightest star in the Irish firmament of listed companies, our very own one-company dotcom boom. At one stage, in 2000, the internet security business run by Fran Rooney was a constituent of the FTSE 100. But that’s all a long time ago. In 2004, the group was acquired by a Bermuda-based company called Acquisitor, which specialised in acquiring what it saw as undervalued listed companies.

By that stage, the company which at its peak had a market capitalisation of £7 billion when its shares traded at £15 each, was worth just £19 million and its shares worth just 37 pence sterling.

Attempts by the company to disperse its cash reserves to shareholders – a move that would have seen the average Irish shareholder get a payment of about £200 – were blocked. At the time, the company had about 5,150 Irish shareholders.

The company delisted Baltimore Technologies from the London Stock Exchange in February 2005. Ahead of that, it had consolidated its shares, with every 125 old shares becoming one new share. This meant that many small shareholders – those with fewer than 125 shares – effectively owned just a fraction of a share and were forced to sell out their interest.

It was reported at the time that about 24,000 Baltimore shareholders – accounting for about 59 per cent of the stock – fell within this cohort and received a cash refund of less than £22 each for their disenfranchisement.

One year later, now with just 3,000 Irish shareholders among a total of 16,500, the company relisted, this time on London’s junior AIM market.

A few months later, it was taken over by Oryx International Growth Fund. So where does that leave you?

Well, if you had fewer than 125 shares when you bought them in 2000, or added to them later, then you should have got a payout in 2004/05 of about €30. If not, you could try chasing it though that could be more trouble – and expense – than it is worth.

If you had more than 125 shares, it is possible that you remained a shareholder through the delisting, remaining a shareholder of the private company, and then a member of the relisted Baltimore – though I’m not entirely sure there wasn’t some other shuffling of the shareholder deck along the line. Certainly any existing share certificate you might hold for your Baltimore shares is no longer valid but it may be that your name remained on the share register through all the transactions and changes.

If you were still a shareholder at that time, you should have received something at the time of the Oryx takeover – shares in that company as I understand the deal was an all-share transaction. If you didn’t you might want to chase them up as I gather the fund’s shares are trading at about £4. You can contact Oryx directly at +44 1481 750858 or email info@oryxinternationalgrowthfund.co.uk, or preferably, you can contact their share registrar, which is Capita. Their address is: Capita Registrars (Guernsey) Limited, P O Box 627, St Sampson, Guernsey, Channel Islands, GY1 4PP.

You could be lucky but,as with most shooting stars, I wouldn’t be counting on Baltimore delivering you any financial return at this stage.

Send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara St, D2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice

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