Foreign investor increases stake in Royal Mail parent

Jo Francis
Thursday, March 30, 2023

Foreign investor Vesa Equity Investment has increased its stake in Royal Mail’s parent group to more than 25%.

This week has marked another crunch point for Royal Mail and its employees
This week has marked another crunch point for Royal Mail and its employees

Luxembourg-headquartered Vesa Equity Investment, is co-owned by Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský.

Last August, then secretary of state Kwasi Kwarteng said he would take action under the National Security & Investment Act if the Vesa stake went above 25%.

However, following the cabinet merry-go-round during and after the short-lived tenure of Liz Truss as PM, in October last year Grant Shapps said no further action would be taken during his own short-lived tenure at BEIS.

In a major holdings of shares notification published today (30 March), Royal Mail parent International Distributions Services said that Vesa now held 25.02% of voting rights attached to shares.

This week has marked another crunch point for Royal Mail and its employees, with the future of the business now in question.

With no sign of an agreement with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), and the threat of further strike action hanging over the postal operator, there are mounting fears that Royal Mail management could opt for the 'nuclear option' and put the business into administration.

Monday’s online chatter about a potential administration move had morphed into national media headlines by midweek.

The CWU tweeted last night that talks with Royal Mail would resume today, and that it is trying to reach an agreement.

A statement posted on Wednesday from CWU general secretary Dave Ward and Andy Furey, acting deputy general secretary (postal), updated the group's members on the situation.

"Firstly, we have made progress in several areas – this is because of your outstanding support. But we are not in a position where we could recommend an agreement to our membership. The company has moved on some issues that are core to the dispute including on job security, later starts/finishes, performance management, and an optimised parcels network.

"But the fundamental problem remains: senior management’s obsession with its ‘our business to run’ mantra and removing the voice of postal workers in changes that will affect them. Some members are saying ‘all the change has already happened’ – but nothing could be further from the truth.

"This document sets out a future that, if unchecked, will see Royal Mail Group turned into just another Uber-style gig economy employer. If we don’t win this dispute, this will be your future."

It added the pay offer on the table "is not enough".

"Royal Mail Group have made a three-year offer, but it includes no further money to cover last year and no back pay. We will table a fresh proposal on pay to Royal Mail Group this week."

CWU said it would keep its members "fully updated with any major developments".

Royal Mail had not commented at time of writing.

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