One month after it was forced to defend its cross-shareholding structure against shareholder criticism, the Jardines group has been strengthening its self-defence mechanism through share purchases. Jardine Matheson Holdings (JMH) yesterday said it had bought back 13.07 million of its own shares on Tuesday at US$4.57 each - for US$59.72 million. After the shares are cancelled, the stake held in JMH by Jardine Strategic Holdings (JSH) will rise to 41.4 per cent from 40.8 per cent. Meanwhile, JMH this week filed a substantial shareholder notice advising it had raised its stake in JSH to 65.08 per cent from 64.04 per cent. This follows a notice last week that it had boosted its stake from 63.81 per cent and another notice last month in which it advised of a rise from 62.91 per cent. Neil McNamara, Jardine group secretary, said the two companies' shares represented good value and any suggestion the recent share purchases were a defensive move was 'incorrect'. He said the group had made it clear it was looking for ways to utilise its expected US$1.03 billion profit from the sale of its stake in Robert Fleming Holdings to Chase Manhattan. Mr McNamara said the group expected to have all the proceeds from the sale of Robert Fleming in the bank by September. 'It would be premature to say what they would be used for,' he said. The purchases strengthen the cross-shareholding structure set up in the 1980s to help fend off potential hostile bidders and maintain the control of the Keswick family and its associates. Controversy over the structure erupted in the lead-up to the group's annual meeting in Bermuda on June 1 after United States-based Brandes Investment Partners announced plans to put six resolutions to shareholders. Brandes claimed the cross-shareholdings were responsible for Jardine companies' uninspiring share performances and slow growth. It called for the formal unwinding of the structure and for JSH directors who also sit on the JMH board to be barred from voting JSH shares on matters involving JMH. Other shareholders, including Brierley Investments and Marathon Asset Management, supported the Brandes move. The resolutions were voted down, but Brandes claimed victory after a majority of independent shareholders voted for its proposals. Directors of JMH and JSH voted unanimously against the resolutions, which they said could have left the group open to an opportunistic bid. Henry Keswick, chairman of both companies, welcomed the result as 'very satisfactory'. In the 5.5 years since the group delisted from Hong Kong and moved to Singapore, JMH shares have fallen 20 per cent, including reinvested dividends. The Singapore All Equities Index has risen 4.8 per cent during the same period. JMH shares ended yesterday down 6 US cents at US$3.90, while JSH closed one US cent higher at US$2.83.