BET pushes up forecast as bid deadline nears

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BET yesterday stepped up its defence against the pounds 1.9bn hostile takeover bid from Rentokil by announcing an upwards revision of its profit forecast for the current year from pounds 142m to pounds 146m.

The estimate, however, drew accusations of "incompetence" from Rentokil, which has until the end of next week to decide whether to increase its 203p cash-and-shares bid for the rival business services company.

BET, which made its first profit forecast for the year to next March just a fortnight ago, said it also expected earnings per share to rise by at least 35 per cent to at least 11.1p. The group has already forecast that its dividend for1996/97 will rise at least 20 per cent to a net 6.15p per share.

Shares in BET rose by 2p to 205.5p and Rentokil closed 3p higher at 362p.

Sir Christopher Harding, BET chairman, said: "This powerfully demonstrates three key points about BET - the strength and momentum of our current growth, the prudence with which we forecast, and the inadequacy of Rentokil's offer."

BET has until tomorrow to publish anymore fresh financial information to the market and any revised bid by Rentokil from the present 203p cash- and-shares offer must be made no more than a week later. Most analysts are expecting a slightly raised offer from Rentokil to clinch victory but some believe that it could squeeze success without giving ground.

Clive Thompson, Rentokil's chief executive, said that the release of yet another profit forecast is a "sheer sign of management incompetence".

Mr Thompson attacked the latest profit forecast as lacking back-up details, adding: "How can shareholders regard this as credible? I believe there is too little information as to where this late contribution to BET's profit estimate has come from."

BET said the estimate, unlike the previous forecast, is based on full information for the year to the end of March.

There is a growing view in the City that Rentokil has all but won the pounds 1.9bn takeover. Fidelity, which owned more than 5 per cent of BET at the start of the bid, is thought to have reduced its holding of 50 million shares to 18 million.