Hammerson keeps the bid rumour pot boiling

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The Independent Online
BID speculation which has been bubbling around Hammerson, the property group, is set to intensify this week as it starts the search for a successor to John Parry, its managing director.

Sydney Mason, Hammerson's 72-year-old chairman, said yesterday that he did not intend to retire until after the new chief executive had been bedded down, which could be as late as the end of 1994 'or '95'. The group will soon begin its search for a replacement for Mr Parry, who will retire when he reaches 60 next March.

Mr Mason, who joined Hammerson 43 years ago and has been chairman since 1958, said he was looking for 'a property man'. Internal candidates - such as Mr Parry's deputy, Rainer Vogt - had not been ruled out. Two non- executive directors, Tom Hutchison, deputy governor of Bank of Scotland, and Geoffrey Maitland Smith, chairman of Sears - will play an active part in the selection process.

He added that the management changes would not herald a new strategy for the group 'unless someone makes a takeover bid.'

Asked if he was expecting a bid, he said: 'You never know do you. And articles (like those about the management changes that appeared in the weekend press) could well attract some.'

Speculation about a bid for Hammerson has grown in recent weeks, with potential bidders ranging from Hanson to investors from the Far East. That has helped to lift the high-voting ordinary shares by 20 per cent since the beginning of December, and they closed at 293p on Thursday.

Despite the rise, however, the shares still stand at a discount of more than 40 per cent to net asset value, which analysts estimate will have fallen to 500p compared with 637p at the end of 1991. The fall in net asset value has forced the group to sell off properties to keep its gearing under control.