Hanson and Metcalfe meet over Ranks bid

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LORD HANSON, the chairman of Hanson, and Stanley Metcalfe, the chairman of Ranks Hovis McDougall, met yesterday, raising the possibility that the two sides might yet find a basis for an agreed bid in the wake of Hanson's hostile pounds 781m offer for RHM on Monday.

In a joint statement, Lord Hanson and Mr Metcalfe said they were grateful for the opportunity to meet and were able to have a 'useful exchange of views'.

Lord Hanson was accompanied by Tony Alexander, Hanson's UK chief operating officer. Sir Peter Reynolds, deputy chairman of RHM, joined Mr Metcalfe.

Mr Metcalfe said on Monday that he was prepared to meet Lord Hanson to hear what he had to say. The indications yesterday were that nothing more should be read into the conversations and no further meetings had been arranged.

Analysts noted that a similar encounter took place last year between Lord Hanson and Sir Denys Henderson, chairman of ICI, after Hanson took a stake in the chemicals group. The result was far from amicable.

The stock market takes the view that Hanson's offer of 220p in cash for RHM shares is a sighting shot. They point to RHM's last published net asset value of 295p a share. Hanson intends to post its offer document in about 10 days, according to Martin Taylor, a director of Hanson. RHM shares encountered profit-taking in early trading yesterday before recovering to close 2p lower at 239p after falling to 236p at one point.

Shares in Associated British Foods, RHM's larger rival in bread-making, continued to advance with a 9p gain to 418p. Analysts believe ABF stands to benefit from any rationalisation of excess bread-making capacity that would follow a successful takeover of RHM.

Hanson, which sprang its pounds 781m bid for RHM on Monday, has meanwhile made a dollars 40m (pounds 23m) book profit on the sale of four loss-making US businesses for dollars 96m (pounds 56m).

Weber Aircraft, a maker of aircraft seats, galleys, lavatories and rubber boats for the civil aviation industry, has been sold for dollars 85m to Groupe Zodiac, a French manufacturer of inflatable boats and aircraft escape chutes.

Weber lost money in the year to September 1991 due to several low-margin contracts. Mr Taylor said that performance had improved in the year just ended.

Hanson also sold A&S Building Systems and the lighting systems division of Halkey-Roberts and completed the sale of Ranger Footwear.