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Bid for Lonhro Africa looks increasingly likely

GEORGE SOROS-BACKED Blakeney Management yesterday confirmed its interest in Lonhro and Lonhro Africa, heightening speculation that a bid for the Lonhro Africa could soon emerge.

The sub-Saharan trading operation which demerged a month ago from Lonhro is a pounds 127m company which on Thursday will report a steep fall in first- half profitability.

Blakeney, founded eight years ago, is said to be an active manager of Soros funds and has become interested in the potential of Africa.

Blakeney last year took a 26 per cent stake in African Lakes, another African trading company in which Soros's Quantum Emerging Growth fund is said to have a holding.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Blakeney said: "We have looked at the publicly available documents relating to Lonhro and Lonhro Africa. We continue to assess Lonhro and Lonhro Africa's investment merits."

Lonhro Africa has an extensive portfolio, covering hotels, cotton, and motor distribution outlets in 14 countries. It owns 11 hotels and safari lodges in Kenya, Ghana and Mauritius.

Lonhro Africa was demerged from the parent group in a move to focus Lonhro on its mining activities.

The group had sales of pounds 554m in the year to September and produced profits of pounds 42.3m. Thursday's results could show that profits have fallen by half in the latest six-month period.