Anglo’s lease finally runs out

Sixteen month ago, shares in Anglo Leasing, an offshoot of Lord Rothschild’s group that specialised in financing small items of office equipment, were quietly trading at about 220p. Had they followed the share index they might now stand at about 270p. Instead, they rushed to a peak of 536p last August, then slumped to a low of 173p. At that price, against a claimed up-to-date asset value of 211p, their Stock Exchange listing was suspended indefinitely yesterday.

When Lord Rothschild’s companies sold half their 75 per cent stake to Sir James Goldsmith’s interests, on his much heralded, return from the United States, the business world held its breath. Anglo started by taking pole position in Sunningdale, a shelf company that bought almost 30 per cent of Ranks Hovis McDougall. After Hoylake's bid for VAT Industries; it even seemed that Anglo might end up as one of the world’s biggest tobacco conglomerates.

The sad ensuing reality for Anglo shareholders is a fair reflection of the score so far in the Anglo’s lease finally runs out

campaign by Sir James, in partnership with Lord Rothschild and Kerry Packer, to earn huge profits by breaking up what he deemed to be Britain’s unwieldy corporate giants.

At least Sir James has followed his own corporate logic, as Lord Rothschild did last week, when he announced that J Rothschild Holdings was to be split in two, with half becoming a unit trust. Anglo was originally chosen as a vehicle for the break-up operations for the duo because it had a business, Anglo Leasing and a quotation. Under Stock Exchange rules, pure cash shell companies are no longer entitled to a listing.

Anglo had to choose ultimately between raiding and leasing, since the leasing business patiently built up by Laurence Silman, was unlikely to prosper indefinitely in such an atmosphere. Sir James chose to stick to raiding some time before the campaign against BAT was finally dropped. Mr Silman is doubtless glad to be out of it and in with people who trade in the same neck of the woods.

But what of the residual Anglo? For the moment, the ambitions remain in place, as does the indirect stake in RHM. If the RHM shares bought at 400p, had kept their price, Anglo’s share would have a balance sheet value of 296p. Outside shareholders might be happy of RHM bid the actual value of 211p for Anglo to cancel its shares and finally take itself off the block.

Anglo could regain its quote if it successfully bid for RHM and only a cash bid would be entertained in today’s climate. But the game, which Sir James concluded was finished in the United States, ended in Britain almost as soon as it started. The idea of breaking up RHM merely to sell its parts to the highest continental bidder is now anatntertined in today’s climate. But the game, which Sir James concluded was finished in the United States, ended in Britain almost as soon as it started. The ide
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