NorthWest Healthcare Properties Management has hired a proxy solicitation firm to lobby investors in the listed Vital Healthcare Property Trust to give their proxies to the chair, Claire Higgins.

NorthWest, which is ultimately owned by a Toronto-listed real estate investment trust of the same name, owns Vital’s management contract and is trying to fend off an investor rebellion led by ANZ Investment Funds, Mint Asset Management and ACC.

The three institutional investors want to make various changes to Vital’s trust deed, including removing NorthWest’s ability to fire independent directors at will and to change the fee structure so that the manager’s interests are better aligned with those of Vital’s investors.

Five resolutions the institutions have proposed, and the appointment of another director, are set to be voted on at the annual meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20.

The investors own 10 percent of Vital’s units between them while NorthWest owns nearly 25 percent.

Chief executive David Carr confirmed that NorthWest has hired a proxy solicitation firm, although he wouldn’t name it and says “it is a well-known firm with a track record in this part of the world.”

NorthWest is paying the cost of hiring this firm, he says.

“NorthWest, as you might expect, has engaged with a proxy solicitation firm to reach out to some unitholders on its behalf in view of the proposals made and the communications undertaken by the proposing unitholders to promote them,” Carr says in a statement to BusinessDesk.

“The purpose of the calling programme is to ensure that unitholders have access to information about the choices before them and the opportunity to ask questions; and that the company has an opportunity to receive feedback from the unitholders,” Carr says.

“Feedback to date indicates that they generally welcome the calls.”

Some unitholders have not welcomed being called.

One investor, who says she doesn’t normally give out her phone number, says she got no answer to her question about how NorthWest got her number. Nor did the caller answer when she asked why the matter was so important that NorthWest found it necessary to phone.

Other investors have contacted their financial advisers asking whether such phone calls are usual practice – they aren’t.

Vital units recently traded at $2.05, down 1.4 percent or 3 cents. The units have dropped 5.9 percent so far this year, compared to a 3.1 percent gain on the NZX 50 index. 

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