Institutions plan to reject Trafalgar offer

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MANY of Trafalgar House's largest shareholders plan to reject the tender offer from Hongkong Land when it closes this afternoon, putting in the balance the fate of its bid to gain a 29.9 per cent stake.

None of the large institutions contacted by the Independent plans to pledge shares to Hongkong Land, part of the Jardine Matheson investment group, although some sold part of their holdings when it snapped up a 14.9 per cent stake in a dawn raid last week.

Analysts expect Hongkong to fall short of its target of buying a further 15 per cent, although they say some institutions are likely to cash in their holdings.

That was reflected in Trafalgar's shares yesterday. The ordinaries closed up 1.5p at 86.5p, compared with the tender price of 85p, while the 'A' shares, which carry scrip dividends, rose the same amount to 83.5p, 1.5p above the tender price.

The institutions are concerned that, if the tender succeeds, Hongkong will take effective control of the company without launching a full bid. A representative of one large institution, which sold shares in last week's raid, said: 'I am not prepared to let any more go as I am concerned I will be left as a minority shareholder with a large shareholder dictating the way things go.'

But he made it clear that he remained unhappy with Trafalgar's performance. 'I still think there are serious problems with the company, its strategy and its asset base. It is now trying to do something about that, but it is too late.'

Others indicated that they were unhappy with the current management and wanted the changes, promised by Trafalgar in a circular earlier this week, to be made as quickly as possible.

The changes are likely to mean that Allan Gormley, head of the construction and engineering division that is to become the group's core, becomes chief executive.