2 MAY 1987, Page 18

Rolls gets a booster

THE Government announced its price for Rolls-Royce first thing on Tuesday morn- ing. At lunchtime the Bank of England set off a cut in the banks' base rates. By evening a gratified stock market showed a gain, on the FT Index, of 24 points. We should all of us like to launch our share issues on such a tide, but we might be accused of insider trading, or even of rigging the market. Governments, if ac- cused of that, are never convicted. For myself, much though I admire Sir Francis Tombs, Rolls-Royce's chairman, I would not buy the shares. Superstition precludes me. I too vividly remember, 20 years ago, my friend Oliver Marriott tipping the old Rolls-Royce as the big company most likely to go bust. I remember how, after the crash, the car-making side was re- trieved and brought to market as Rolls- Royce Motors — a share which promptly fell by two-thirds. Now Edward Heath's lame duck returns as Margaret Thatcher's privatised swan. The two are consistent. Companies sometimes need to be rescued, their shareholders never do. Much grief would have been saved by applying that principle to Westland.