Higgs & Hill rights meet poor response: Company 'disappointed but not surprised'

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HIGGS & HILL is 'disappointed but not surprised' by the poor take-up of its pounds 22m rights issue, writes Tom Stevenson.

Shareholders applied for only 31.2 per cent of the shares following a collapse in the construction company's share price since the launch.

Alfred McAlpine announced a 75.7 per cent take-up of its pounds 25m rights issue at 205p. Its shares closed at 207p.

When Higgs' one-for-two cash call was announced last month, the shares stood at 132p. But by the final date for applications at the end of last week, they had fallen to 104p, lower than the 105p subscription price.

The issue was fully underwritten by Schroders, the merchant bank. Following its failure to place the rump, the shares closed yesterday 2p lower at 102p.

John Theakston, chief executive, said the acquisition of 930 plots of housing land from English China Clay, to be funded by the rights issue, would go ahead.

The recent fall in the stock market has left a number of rights issues vulnerable. Several companies' shares were yesterday within a few pence of their rights issue prices.

NSM, the coal miner, fell below its 100p rights price before recovering to 104p. Britton, the packaging group, and Dixons, the motor dealer, held a few pence above the prices of their cash calls, while the pub operator Paramount's shares closed at the issue price of 9p.