BTR shares rise as Bauman signs on

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The Independent Online
BTR, the embattled industrial conglomerate, sought to salvage its reputation yesterday with the appointment of Robert Bauman, the respected chairman of British Aerospace, as its non-executive chairman from next spring.

Mr Bauman, who will join BTR's board in the meantime as non-executive deputy chairman, will replace Elwyn Eilledge, the current chairman, who is to retire at next year's annual shareholders' meeting in May after just two years in the job. Mr Bauman will continue as BAe chairman and as a non-executive director of Reuters.

The announcement gave a much-needed boost to BTR's share price and intensified speculation that the group may consider breaking itself up to unlock shareholder value. BTR shares, which peaked at 407p three years ago, ended the day up 11.5p, at 218p.

One analyst described Mr Bauman as a "big hitter" who would carry more weight in the City than Mr Eilledge, 62, who had previously been senior partner with accountants Ernst & Young, BTR's auditors. BAe's share price has soared during the three-year Bauman chairmanship as the group took a leading role in promoting the restructuring of the European aerospace and defence industries.

Mr Eilledge said Mr Bauman was "a highly respected industrialist with an outstanding track record who is ideally qualified to guide BTR", adding that he would continue with the existing restructuring strategy of Ian Strachan, chief executive.

BTR denied suggestions that Mr Eilledge's departure was a response to investor discontent after a succession of disappointing announcements from the company. In May more than pounds 1.5bn was wiped off its share price after the group issued its fourth profits warning in three years. Mr Strachan stunned investors by warning that the overvalued pound would knock pounds 35m off the group's half-yearly profits, to be announced next month.

Last autumn he signalled the end of BTR's acquisition-led strategy with a radical restructuring plan.