Kerry Co-op shareholders have fallen short of the trigger needed to force an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).Representatives of a group of shareholders presented a list of shareholder signatures to the co-op board last Friday.

While the list was significant, it is understood to have fallen short of the 20% of co-op shareholders required to trigger an EGM. It is believed to have fallen further short of the second requirement, that the signatories would collectively hold 20% of the co-op’s total shareholding.

The intention was to present a motion at an EGM, if triggered, locking a ratio of plc shares held by the co-op into each co-op share.

This would have effectively transferred all but €100m or so of the co-op’s €2bn in plc shares directly to the shareholders, meaning the board could not fund an acquisition of a majority stake in Kerry Group’s Irish business without the support of shareholders.

Talks about such an acquisition collapsed early last year, but are understood to have resumed.

Kerry Co-op Chair Denis Carroll has moved to reassure shareholders that their shareholding is in safe hands. “We (the co-op board) need to come back with a plan,” he said, speaking on Radio Kerry.

“The fundamental message I want to give shareholders is that when we develop that plan we will bring it back to the shareholders for approval. Without shareholder approval we are going nowhere, that is the position of the board,” he said.

Carroll’s commitment has reassured at least some of the board’s critics. One said on Wednesday “the board’s plan will have to recognise that the money owed by Kerry Group to milk suppliers over the leading milk price arbitration cannot be bundled into any joint venture deal”.