Mr Smith dismayed the City last month when Bimec cancelled the payment of a promised final dividend only hours before the company's annual meeting of shareholders. He blamed a rapid deterioration in Bimec's finances. Bimec's shares crashed from 19p to a low of 3p, having traded as high as 86p only last November.
Kleinwort Benson, Bimec's broker, had issued a buy recommendation on the company only 10 days before. Anthony Dew, Kleinwort's analyst, said at the time that he had been 'completely misled and legged over'.
Mr Barber would not comment on debts and trading but promised a detailed statement with the interim results in November. He said electrical contracting activities were suffering because of their exposure to the building industry slump.
Mr Barber said he had no pre- conceived ideas about disposals. 'The first thing I will do is visit all the company's operations. I shall not talk to management, I shall listen to management.'
He said Bimec had paid Mr Smith 'modest and very reasonable' compensation, 'a lot, lot less' than the pounds 500,000 suggested by one report.
Mr Smith is the group's largest shareholder, with 5.8 million shares. Other large shareholders include Friends Provident, with 5.2 per cent, and Abbey National Pension Fund, with 3.4 per cent.
Bimec grew rapidly after Mr Smith took over in 1988, its sales soaring from just pounds 272,000 to more than pounds 100m last year. Profits growth had also been good, but the pounds 6m profit it reported in July was well below City expectations of pounds 8m or more.
Bimec's borrowings are thought to have soared since March, when they represented 60 per cent of net assets of pounds 12.3m.
Bimec's shares rose 1 1/2 p to 9p yesterday.Reuse content