Jardine man to head Trafalgar: Finance director and head of shipping and hotels division leaving company as Hong Kong trading group strengthens its hold

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The Independent Online
JARDINE MATHESON, the Hong Kong-based trading group, yesterday strengthened its hold on Trafalgar House with the appointment of Simon Keswick, one of its directors, as chairman of the group.

John Ansdell, Trafalgar's finance director, is also resigning to be replaced by David Gawler, who is finance director of Hongkong Land - the property arm of the Jardine empire, which holds a 25.1 per cent stake in Trafalgar.

Trafalgar has been looking for a permanent chairman since Sir Nigel Broackes, the company's founder, stood down in October, shortly after Hongkong Land took its stake in the group. Allan Gormly, Trafalgar's chief executive, said that Hongkong Land was clearly keen to see one of its own appointees in the post.

But he denied that he was forced to select Mr Gawler as finance director, insisting that Mr Gawler was his choice and that Hongkong Land was reluctant to see him go.

The appointments bring the number of Jardine directors on the Trafalgar board to four. Rodney Leach and Sir Charles Powell, directors of a string of Jardine companies, have been appointed non-executive directors in recent months. Mr Gormly said Trafalgar intended to appoint two independent non-executives by the middle of the summer.

Mr Ansdell and Dermot McDermott, the head of the shipping and hotels division who is also leaving, will receive compensation based on their three-year service contracts.

Touche Ross is standing down as auditor, to be replaced by KPMG Peat Marwick. In a statement to shareholders Touche said that it did not believe it should have qualified the group's 1991 accounts - which had to be redrafted following an investigation by the accounting watchdog - but said it did not believe it had the full backing of shareholders.

Kleinwort Benson remains as financial adviser, but Mr Gormly indicated that it was likely to be replaced soon by Robert Fleming, Jardine's adviser.

The board changes were announced as the group revealed a loss of pounds 97.6m in the six months to March compared with a pounds 54m profit the year before. The loss, foreshadowed when it launched its pounds 204m rights issue in February, was largely caused by a pounds 100m property write-down and a pounds 20m restructuring provision.

The dividend was cut to 1.25p from 4.4p and it is forecasting a 2p final for a total of 3.25p (6p). Trafalgar's shares closed up 3p at 95p.

(Photograph omitted)