Court to reconsider price for DIG share in mushroom firm

ELST was ordered to buy out shareholding of Donegal Investment Group for €26 million

DIG had claimed it was excluded from the affairs of the company following acts of oppression by the majority shareholders and sought orders under company legislation directing ELST to buy out its minority 30 per cent shareholding

DIG had claimed it was excluded from the affairs of the company following acts of oppression by the majority shareholders and sought orders under company legislation directing ELST to buy out its minority 30 per cent shareholding

 

The High Court must reconsider a €26.2 million valuation it put on the buyout of a minority share in a Monaghan-based mushroom and compost business by the majority shareholder, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

ELST, a company whose “driving force” was described by a judge as its manager and controller Ronnie Wilson, was ordered by the High Court just over a year ago to buy out the shareholding of Donegal Investment Group plc (DIG) without discount for €30.6 million.

Less than two months later, that figure was revised to €26.2 million by the court.

Claimed

ELST is a holding company formed arising from a merger of Carbury Mushrooms and Monaghan Middlebrook Mushrooms Ltd.

DIG brought its proceedings against the majority holders: Danbywiske, Mr Wilson, the Wilson Limited Partnership One, Monaghan Mushrooms and ELST itself.

In a judgment last year, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said the respondents had conceded a sample act of oppression by not bringing the purchase by the company of a mushroom business in Canada to the board for approval.

However, there was no evidence of dishonesty, fraud, divesting of assets or other serious misbehaviour by members of the Wilson family or other respondents which would entitle the court to treat this as such an unusual case it merited an order that a minority shareholder buy out the majority against their wishes, he said.

Minority shares

DIG appealed that decision on a number of grounds, principally that the High Court judge erred in law in the manner in which he reached his conclusion about the buyout and by failing to have regard to the shareholders agreement in rejecting the IPO option.

In her ruling on behalf of a three-judge Court of Appeal, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said the respondents must buy DIG’s 30 per cent shareholding but the question of the price should be sent back to the High Court.

She said the price should be at full current market value of the shares without discounts for minority, cash flow or marketability.

Earnings before interest, taxes, and amortisation should be determined in the same manner as they were in 2014, Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan said.