Danish ratkiller shows its hand

JOHN WILLCOCK

Rentokil has an unusual shareholding structure in that it is a quoted minority of an overseas company, Sophus Berendsen of Denmark, which owns 52 per cent. Sophus invested pounds 2,000 in the late 1920s in a company called the British Ratin Company which subsequently bought Rentokil in 1957. Rentokil is now an FT-SE 100 stock and worth pounds 3.3bn.

Rentokil likes to see itself as an autonomous unit, and the Danes as nothing more than a large institutional shareholder. The Danes prefer to regard Rentokil as a subsidiary, albeit one that can be left alone while it continues to grow earnings.

Analysts at UBS, the investment bank, recently reprinted part of the initial offering prospectus for Rentokil's flotation in 1969, which traces the history of the relationship.

Rentokil is a subsidiary of Sophus Berendsen, a private company incorporated in Denmark in 1897. Sophus is a leading import agency company in Denmark, particularly for a number of prominent British companies.

In 1904, Sophus acquired distribution rights for a bacterial rodenticide named Ratin which was on sale in the UK from 1906. The trade developed and in 1927 the company was incorporated under the name the British Ratin Company.

In 1929 a significant change in policy occurred whereby the emphasis was placed on the provision of a service for rodent control, as distinct from the sale of rodenticides.

By 1931, local offices had been established. In 1957 the company acquired Rentokil, then a leader in making and providing services for dry rot and woodworm control.

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