Asbestos-hit engineer needs a bid

CITY TALK

THE provisional refusal of the German Cartel Office to approve the offer by Britain's T&N to take over the German automotive parts maker, Kolbenschmidt, has revived hopes of a bid for T&N from its fellow engineer, GKN.

Both side deny talks, but the strong tip is that GKN will make an agreed bid of 220p within a month. The T&N price has languished at around 160p since the end of November, when Colin Hope, the chairman and chief executive, had to make a £100m provision against possible asbestos-related damages claims. Last month, Mr Hope boxed himself in by promising no rights issue or dividend. But at 160p, the shares yield 8.5 per cent, suggesting the market does not believe him. A rescue bid would be the best way out.

DO NOT be fooled by the splash due from Shell on Thursday. Fergus MacLeod, at NatWest Securities, reckons that the headline figure for net income will be almost double last year's £776m and that even after adjustments the rise will be a creditable 24 per cent.

The key, however, is simply a massive swing in the chemical business, from a £15m loss in the last quarter of 1993 to a £280m profit a year later. Mr MacLeod reckons that the 724p share price represents a reasonable trade-off between cyclical recovery (and Shell's belated cost-cutting efforts) on the one hand and the shares' high rating on the other.

Indeed the share price has hardly budged in response to the market's tribulations of the past year - a tribute to the shares' rock-solid following, in particular among investors on the European continent.

But BP has made excellent profits for followers of Citytalk over the past couple of years, and it retains a sense of urgency and momentum lacking in the smugger Anglo-Dutch giant. Stick with BP.

OVER the past few years the story of J Bibby, 80 per cent controlled by the South African giant, Barlow Rand, has been one of disaster, muddle and apparently only partial recovery. But the parent has a firm grip on its wayward child, now reduced to a series of well-placed businesses and agencies, largely in the material handling field.

Last year's results were overshadowed by a thorough write-off, but this year profits could motor. In particular, Bibby's biggest disaster area is coming right - Finanzauto, the Caterpillar distributor in Spain bought for £86m in 1992 only to lose £18m a year later, is set to make profits of more than £6.5m in the year to September 1995.

Because Bibby's shares have only a narrow market, at 87p they have recovered only modestly from the 49p low they reached last year, despite the bullish noises made at the AGM a few weeks ago. One for private investors, and even for widows and orphans.

THE market has been rather grudging in acknowledging that Brixton Estates has read the property market far more accurately than more glamorous rivals have done.

During the boom years, Brixton stuck to industrial buildings. In the last year, it has spent £123m from a well-timed rights issue to buy offices and factories, giving an average yield of 10.7 per cent.

Profits in the half year to June 1994 were 23 per cent up and brokers Charles Stanley are forecasting that earning per share for the full year will be only slightly diluted by the rights issue - down from 11.7p in 1993 to 10.9p.

Yet Brixton's shares are languishing at 168p and have lost their premium rating, even though tenants are steadily losing the incentives to which they had become accustomed during the depression. Nourishing.

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