Bottom Line: To bid or not to bid

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The Independent Online
DAVID ABELL, chairman of Suter, is back. Having kept his head down for the past five years - for much of which he and his company have been under investigation by Department of Trade and Industry inspectors - he has recently been brave enough to appear back above the parapet.

He has been encouraged by shareholders' support. They have pushed up Suter's share price to twice the level in January when the DTI report was published. Investors have taken to heart the inspectors' finding that they could find no evidence of a concert party while ignoring their comment that the relationship between Mr Abell and Michael Somerset- Leeke, a stockbroker, was 'similar to that which the legislation relating to concert parties seeks to prohibit'.

Mr Abell's recovery in confidence is reflected in his public pursuit of James Wilkes, where Suter has built up a stake of 16 per cent. He says Wilkes is 'a perfect fit' and points to the benefits to be gained from combining three of the Sheffield company's subsidiaries - Floform (spark plug electrodes for the car industry), Avon Transmission (reconditioning gearboxes) and Stubs (steel wire for hacksaws) - with Suter's existing operations.

Suter's interest has been so obvious that Wilkes's shares have doubled since Suter acquired its first holding at 43p. If Suter were serious would it not have used more stealth?

Mr Abell says he is not interested in share-dealing profits. But it remains possible he may sell his holding in Wilkes. Those with long memories may recall that in the Eighties he made no secret of his interest in FH Lloyd, the foundry company, only to sell out later.

Holders of Wilkes should not assume Suter will bid. History suggests that it could just as easily dump its holding.

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