ICI may quit Millbank HQ

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THE PROPOSED break-up of Imperial Chemical Industries could lead to it vacating the offices it has occupied since it was formed in 1926 - freeing one of London's most prestigious buildings, which could be worth more than pounds 70m.

ICI has its group headquarters in Millbank, London, overlooking the Thames and a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament. On Thursday, it announced it was considering splitting itself in two. While the two new companies are likely to share offices immediately after the merger, they will separate eventually.

David Barnes, who will be chief executive of ICI Bioscience - which would take the pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and seeds - said he expected the businesses to have separate offices and computer systems within two years. Which company will move has not been decided. As neither is likely to require such a large head office, both could move and Millbank could be sold.

ICI owns Imperial Chemical House and the adjoining Ergon House, three-quarters of which is let to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Refurbished in the mid-1980s, they cover 216,000 square feet.

Meanwhile Standard & Poors, the credit-rating agency, has put ICI on credit watch because of the demerger proposals. ICI's shares closed down 8p at pounds 11.63.