Falkland stock soars as City stars take 29.9% stake

SHARES IN Falkland Island Holdings, an obscure fishing-to-hotels conglomerate, shot up by more than 65 per cent yesterday after two well- known City personalities took a combined 29.9 per cent stake in the group and joined its board.

Sir Harry Solomon, the former chairman and co-founder of the food group Hillsdown Holdings, acquired 610,000 Falkland shares from HSBC bank at 100p, giving him a 10 per cent holding in the group. Leonard Licht, the star fund manager who has previously worked for Mercury Asset Management and Jupiter Asset Management, added 682,500 shares to his existing stake, bringing his personal holding to 14.2 per cent.

Associates of Mr Licht hold a further 5.7 per cent of the group's share capital. The shares are now worth 157.5p, giving the two men a combined paper profit of pounds 743,188 on yesterday's transaction.

Analysts were betting that the pair will transform Falkland into an acquisition vehicle in the style of Archie Norman's Knutsford and Luke Johnson's Lionheart, which have been moulded as cash shells to raid the retail and services sectors. But Sir Harry said that he and Mr Licht hoped to help the company achieve organic growth.

"The South Atlantic is one of the few remaining underdeveloped parts of the world and it is a region which we believe has great potential for growth and development in the future," he said.

"We intend to work with and support the management and the local community to take advantage of these opportunities and to enhance and expand the activities of the company."

Falkland yesterday posted pre-tax profits of pounds 547,000 for the six months to 30 September on flat turnover of pounds 5.2m. The board is not recommending an interim dividend.

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