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BICC investors stand firm

LEADING SHAREHOLDERS in BICC have rebuffed an increased pounds 462m offer for the troubled cable and construction group from Wassall, the aggressive mini-conglomerate.

The investors dismissed the 110p-a-share informal offer as inadequate and said they would back the BICC board in its rejection of the bid. They also pledged to support the decision by the chief executive, Alan Jones, to sell the group's energy cable business to General Cable of the US for pounds 275m to concentrate on the construction division Balfour Beatty.

Last week, Wassall said it would table a formal offer only if the BICC board recommended it and the cable sale was abandoned. The conglomerate urged shareholders to put pressure on Mr Jones to accept the bid and scrap the cable sale.

However, some large investors said they would not heed Wassall's advice. "[Wassall] want us to act on its behalf. I don't see why we should. The board has taken quite a number of positive steps for the benefit of the company," said one.

Another investor said Wassall's offer "is not even in the right ball park". He said thenew-look BICC could be worth up to 200p a share, or pounds 840m, given Balfour Beatty's strength in high-margin construction work. "I think shareholders will vote through the sale of the energy cable business and the Wassall bid will vanish."

The shareholders' reaction will strengthen Mr Jones' hand. Mr Jones has been trying to stop the company's share price and sales decline by reducing its dependence on the troubled cable markets.