BICC offers investors enhanced scrip payout

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BICC, the cables and construction group, yesterday joined the list of companies offering shareholders enhanced scrip dividends, writes John Murray.

The company said investors could elect to receive shares worth 19.875p per share, a 50 per cent premium on the final cash dividend of 13.25p.

The issue is in effect underwritten by BICC's broker, BZW, where the idea of the enhanced share dividends originated.

Other BZW clients to have adopted the scheme include BAT, Forte, Redland and RTZ.

The broker has agreed to buy the new shares from investors who want a cash return at a value equivalent to 18.875p free of dealing charges or commission.

Ron Henderson, BICC's finance director, said: 'This proposal achieves two things - it eats into surplus advance corporation tax and retains cash in the business.' He described the proposal as a one-off opportunity to achieve that end following the ACT changes in the Budget. 'Our one concern was that shareholders would not be adversely affected, and we have had discussions with our institutional investors, who we believe are happy with the proposal.'

Chris Lloyd of BZW said institutional investors had a natural caution about such proposals at first, but were comfortable as long as a company was not making the issue simply because it did not have the cash to pay a dividend.

He added that the new proposals on relief for ACT surpluses should make such enhanced scrips redundant by next year's dividend round.

Money, page 20