Drop in value of assets lowers Bilton's shares

SHARES in Bilton fell 29p to 600p yesterday after the property and construction company surprised the market with a larger-than-expected fall in the value of its assets.

The valuation by King Sturge, the surveyor, was the first external property audit since 1989. Most large property companies have independent valuations every year even though accounting regulations only require one every five years.

Bilton's property valuations were the equivalent of 643p a share at the end of 1993, down from 739p the previous year and much lower than market forecasts of up to 770p.

The company had raised eyebrows when its 1991 and 1992 valuations, conducted by the directors, showed rises in value when most other companies' portfolios were depreciating.

The lower value put a yield of 8 per cent on rental income from Bilton's industrial portfolio which Robin White, analyst at NatWest Securities, said compared fairly with Slough Estates' recent valuation. He said: 'The new realistic level is quite encouraging. We could not see how the valuations of previous years were arrived at given the state of the property market.'

Pre-tax profits for the year to December were marginally higher at pounds 17.4m ( pounds 17.1m).

They included a small positive contribution from the construction and house-building arm where turnover fell from pounds 10.4m to pounds 9m.

Earnings per share were 27.3p (26.8p) and a final dividend of 13.6p made a full-year total of 19.3p (18.9p).

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