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City File: Well backed

WILLIAMS Holdings was once described, by the chief executive of a company at the wrong end of one of its bids, as an 'accountancy-led conglomerate'. Its ticking off by the Accountancy Standards Board and worries about the use of its merger reserve rankle, but the group's results on Friday should show it in resilient form.

Despite having almost all its debt in dollars, Williams has kept its gearing to 39 per cent of shareholders' funds. Destocking in both its engineering and fire and security operations have affected the company, but there are signs that things are improving, particularly in the Yale security business.

With the pre-tax figure expected to be pounds 155m under old accountancy rules, and pounds 161m applying the new FRS3, the shares at 363p are on an earnings multiple of 18 and well supported.