Conglomerates will be back, says Hanson

LORD HANSON, the pioneer of the UK conglomerate, vowed yesterday that "conglomerates will be back" despite their current unfashionable status.

Speaking just a day after Tomkins, the last of the major UK diversified industrials, announced plans to demerge its food manufacturing interests, Lord Hanson said it was "only a matter of time" before the concept of a diversified industrial group returned to favour.

Lord Hanson, 77, said: "Conglomerates will come back. What goes around comes around. If the right opportunity arose I am sure I could pull together a group of people because it is still the same old game.

"I could find a small company today that needed a bit of a push. It would be precisely as it was when we were starting back in 1964."

Asked where he might strike if he was operating today, Lord Hanson said: "Something like Pilkington is the kind of business Gordon [his right hand man, the late Lord White] and I would have done. It has strong brands and market positions but seems to have lost its way a little."

Lord Hanson denied that the effects of two recessions in a decade had reduced the supply of underperforming targets on which conglomerates have traditionally preyed. "I don't think so. There are still some pretty inefficient businesses in the British business scene."

He added that while investment thinking had moved away from conglomerates, the concept of a single management team spreading itself across a wide array of businesses remained valid.

Lord Hanson, who retired two years ago after Hanson announced a four- way break up, now spends six months of the year at his home in California but has a "portfolio of interests in Britain".

He has recently been diagnosed as having a treatable form of prostate cancer. He remains in good spirits while attending treatment in London. "I would just remind all businessmen to keep up their annual medical check- ups," he said.

He is spending most of the time "catching up on all the reading I never had the time to do when I was in business".

He is also trying his hand as a financial journalist, though he has been surprised by the meagre pay. "I find the financial rewards don't seem to match the effort you put in."

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