City: Bill for Bock

Click to follow
The Independent Online
RECENTLY returned from a sailing holiday in the Caribbean, Dieter Bock, the mysterious German who has chosen to stake his personal fortune on Tiny Rowland's beleaguered international trading group Lonrho, should shortly be confirmed in the position of joint chief executive - or deputy chairman or one of the legion of other job descriptions which Tiny has discussed with him over the last week.

Mr Bock is in for a baptism of fire. Despite the infusion of cash both from Mr Bock and recent asset disposals, Lonrho is desperately short of money. You only have to look at its recent rights issue document. Some pounds 447m of borrowings are repayable within the next year. A further pounds 548m has to be repaid within five years, and pounds 343m of that becomes payable in October next year. Despite Mr Bock, Lonrho still needs a substantial refinancing.

That in any case is the view of Genting, the Malaysian trading group with a substantial stake in Lonrho. Unbeknown to the stock market, Genting explored the idea of refinancing Lonrho last autumn. Genting was to buy about half Tiny's stake in the group and underwrite a rights issue at a premium to the stock-market price. These plans were then used by Tiny as the blueprint for his deal with Mr Bock.

The main difference, however, was that the Genting plan envisaged a considerably larger rights issue and consequently a much bigger injection of cash. To Genting's mind, the Bock deal is inadequate. A big rise in the gold and platinum prices could yet vindicate his investment but he can't count on it. He is much more likely to end up forking out considerably more than he had bargained for to keep Lonrho afloat.

Comments