City: Deafening silence

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The Independent Online
What on earth is going on at Ladbroke, Cyril Stein's betting, hotels and DIY group? It's never been easy to tell but of late it's become well-nigh impossible. Newspapers are injuncted, brokers complain of a lack of any substantive information, and analysts keep downgrading their forecasts. Last week, the company's brokers, Smith New Court and SG Warburg, led the pack downwards, provoking howls of outrage from rivals about the possibility of privileged information. But I suspect that even insiders know little more than the rest of us.

Rumours of wholesale sackings among top directors of the group's troubled Texas Homecare offshoot abound, and the group has to find up to pounds 233m it can ill afford by next summer to pay off bondholders. Meanwhile Mr Stein shows no sign of relinquishing power, despite his promise to retire in January and hand over to John Jackson and Peter George; by all accounts he remains as much a power as ever. No doubt it's all nonsense, but to the outside world Ladbroke's position looks deeply worrying. Mr Jackson will have quite a task in rebuilding investor confidence when he takes over the reins - always assuming he does of course.