7 OCTOBER 1972, Page 28

Skinflint's City Diary

My instinct, if I were a P & 0 shareholder suffering probably from merger shock, would be to reject the Board's advice unless Bovis increase their offer. The deal is obviously weighted to the advantage of Bovis but the trouble for a P & 0 shareholder is to know if their Board, now terribly divided, will be able to get down to the task, many years overdue, of spinning off subsidiaries, liquidating surplus property and generally becoming a financially directed group.

The image that comes to mind is of an old man living in a valuable house with the roof falling in. As he is too lazy to move whilst the work is done he might as well sell out, and leave the job to somebody younger, and with less guilt about the mess the old place has got in.

Bentley's chutzpah

John Bentley of Barclay Securities, the company slimmer, has apparently been accepted by Conservative Central Office as ideal Conservative material and is on the official candidates list and hopeful of early adoption. It 'may be as well if he doesn't push his name forward in the Merton or Shepperton areas.

Though the National Film Finance Corporation have not given their consent to the closure of the Shepperton Studios, Barclay's British Lion — the parent company of Shepperton Studios — are making quiet progress with Mr Terry, head of the NFFC, who is likely, with Mr Anthony Grant of the Department of Trade and Industry to agree to the closure of all, or part, of the studios, and much of the land, once the present fuss has died down. The NFFC have merely to be satisfied that alternative studios will be available to British Lion at Pinewood or Twickenham, and that the studios can only be operated at a critical loss and that there is no reasonable prospect of their being operated profitably in the foreseeable future. However, if Mr Bentley and the British Lion directors considered putting in the same single-minded energy and financial resources as the American .conglomerate, Gulf and Western, they might have the same luck as G & W's Paramount Pictures in producing some really successful films like The Godfather.

There is something cheeky that deserves to succeed about Bentley and his takeover of British Lion. The Yiddish word is 'chutzpah,' which, as Bentley may possibly know, means 'business cheek.' The word is difficult to define but the classical story is of a young man who, having murdered his mother and father for their money, throws himself on the mercy of the court — pleading he is an orphan.

King's edifice

That power-laden hierarchy, London and United Investments (formerly London and Bombay), bought the management company of the Pan-Australian Group Unit Trust group from two of their directors, Richard King and Cohn Forsythe, earlier this year in a controversial deal.

The Pan-Australian Group is not finding the going easy at the moment but the parent company is planning to bid for Brittains Limited, papermakers of Stokeon-Trent. London and United have built up a certain share platform in Brittain's and provided their own share prices does not fall sickeningly further, and they are not locked in on a falling market, a successful or topped bid should result in an increase in assets and profits per share which will help vindicate the patient and trusting small shareholders' hopes of their investment in the London and United edifice.


This is a fine deal for Malcolm Horsman and Slater Walker, though how did Slater Walker get the Takeover Panel to agree to Hill Samuel, Bowater's merchant bankers, getting them cash though the general body of shareholders have no cash alternative?

The deal is excellent, but if you are a Ralli or Bowater shareholder, get out now, since there will be a lot of institutional shareholders — whose total holdings will be increased by the merger — wanting to reduce their commitment and there will be the inevitable bear attack. Coupled with the falling market there should be ample opportunity to get in at a lower price later.

Better still, if you are silly enough to believe the bear market is over, which I don't, and feel fidgety about holding cash, switch to that great growling profitable beast, Slater Walker, which can count on being shovelled deals by its keepers, the brilliant Roland Rowe and Tony Buckley, from Bowaters' well-stocked assets base.

Consuming interest

The group of Conservative MPs, responsible for last week's report on A Square Deal for Consumers, are seeking a reversal of the Government's decision abolishing the Consumers' Council, through the withdrawal of the £240,000 grant.

I fear I am a lone worrier in hoping the Government rejects these new proposals on the same grounds as those on which they withdrew the original grant, since consumer protection is more than adequately safeguarded by private organisations, which, if anything, need a curb.

Too many people, usually self-described as liberal, attack some article or other with utter disregard for the job lc and financial stability of some small company that, unwarned, has no adequate redress by injunction or answering statement. Worse, these consumer organisations, however well-meaning, alter the balance from variety towards standardisation.

Peter Goldman, a director of the Consumers' Association, and martyr of Orpington, finds difficulty in being friendly, outward or easy-going, but is busy and well-meaning. He might consider directing the energies of his organisation to investigating some of those financial institutions selling intangibles that are moreIresponsible for robbing us than any grasping dishwasher-maker. Not just the bill of goods they sell — Mr Goldman's people do investigate these from time to time — but the organisations themselves and the manipulation of the funds under their control. For a start he might look at the unit trusts, insurance companies and, possibly, the National Savings Movement.

By the sea

I have enjoyed myself at the Labour Party Conference, where all sorts of financial problems, speculations and adventures spring to mind. It is particularly pleasing to find a member of the Spectator office being cleverer at the gambling game in the nightspots of Blackpool, and winning more money than, that pale and interesting but ambitious and eager young Daily Mail diarist, Paul Callan, who has been trying hard to lead all of us astray. I was also amused by the appearances and style of the Labour delegates. The socialist women, I thought, are looking more and more like the better and younger class of Tory ladies every day.