Conrad Ritblat buys new London office buildings

CONRAD RITBLAT, the surveyor that gained a stock market quotation last year by merging with Sinclair Goldsmith, yesterday put its own investors' money behind the flood of bullish comment on the property market, writes Tom Stevenson.

In an unusual move for a professional firm, Ritblat announced the acquisition of new West End and City offices. It plans to occupy about half of each, renting the remainder out on short leases.

John Ritblat, chairman, said the deals would greatly bolster the company's balance sheet. 'First class freehold new office buildings are becoming difficult to obtain in both the City and West End and we have been fortunate to secure these properties for our use,' he said.

The two buildings, costing pounds 21.1m, are to be funded by a one-for-one rights issue raising pounds 24.2m at 42p a share. The shares closed yesterday at 58p, down 2p but 7p above the theoretical price implied by the issue's discount, an indication of the market's approval.

The company also announced pre-tax profits of pounds 609,000 in the first interim announcement since the formation of the enlarged group. Earnings per share were 0.7p. There is no dividend, although Mr Ritblat said that the full- year payout would be at least 0.33p.

Bourne End Properties announced a pounds 21m acquisition yesterday of three buildings in Cardiff. Funded by a mixture of cash, loan notes and shares, the deal secures a building let to Tesco on a 30-year lease, a city centre office building and another still being built.

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