City File: Union Discount

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ONCE upon a time, like relatively recently, Union Discount was the giant of its specialised sector. Now, following disastrous losses on property and leasing and a share price slump from 500p two years ago to 43p, the whole company is valued at a mere pounds 8m.

This is simply ridiculous. The property problem has been excised, the leases are self- liquidating, Union Discount's basic business is sound and the market believes that the Bank of England seems increasingly likely to protect Union and its brethren from being swallowed by by Euro-integration.

The Bank would also, apparently, encourage the formation of a couple of strong British- owned groups centred on Cater Allen and Gerrard & National. In which case Union could be a two-chances punt: on recovery and on a suitably gentlemanly, but none the less profitable, takeover.