Best investor perk dies

  • Robert Peston
  • 29 Mar 07, 03:20 PM

It’s the death of probably the most generous shareholder perk in the history of shareholder perks. Some 5,400 founder shareholders of Eurotunnel are to lose their right to unlimited lifetime travel through the Channel tunnel and a further 6,300 shareholders will lose their entitlement to free travel twice a year.

They are the victims of the financial reconstruction of the perennially profit-challenged business that is currently in process. Buried away at the back of the registration document for Groupe Eurotunnel SA and Eurotunnel Group UK PLC - which was published on Friday - is a brief statement that there will henceforth be only one set of perks for all Eurotunnel shareholders, namely a 30 per cent discount on three return crossings for those holding a minimum number of shares for a certain period.

It’s hard not to wince on behalf of those who’ve enjoyed the unlimited travel perk. Wily investors who bought a minimum of 1500 shares in 1987 were told they could go back and forth through the tunnel as many times as they liked till 2042.

That perk has been worth a mint to the holders. But the corollary is that Eurotunnel says that it simply can’t afford the giveaway any longer.

However I suspect those 5,400 holders are not the least sophisticated investors in the UK. And some may investigate whether there’s the possibility of a legal challenge to Eurotunnel’s unkind cut - which after all its recent woes, Eurotunnel could definitely do without.

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