Jardine may get seats on board of Trafalgar

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TRAFALGAR House, the Cunard to construction conglomerate, was yesterday considering whether to give two seats on its board to Jardine Matheson, the investment group, after the failure of its tender offer for a 15 per cent stake.

Jardine has suggested that Sir Charles Powell, former foreign affairs adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and Rodney Leach, a former merchant banker who is a director of several Jardine Matheson companies, should be appointed non-executive directors of Trafalgar.

Both attended a meeting with Trafalgar yesterday morning - along with Henry and Simon Keswick, the brothers who control the Jardine group - arranged after Jardine confirmed the tender offer by its property company, Hongkong Land, had lapsed. It still holds a 14.9 per cent stake in the group.

The 30-minute meeting was described as 'friendly and constructive', and Jardine is believed to have stressed that its intentions were friendly. It considers Sir Charles's international political connections, coupled with Mr Leach's financial skills, will help the group to develop its engineering business. Mr Leach was appointed to the Kwik Save board shortly after Jardine acquired a 25 per cent stake in 1987.

In a statement yesterday, Simon Keswick - who is also chairman of Hongkong Land - said the group's intentions were 'wholly supportive'.

'Provided the company is adequately represented on the board, its investment will be long-term, and it will devote its resources to the future expansion and development of Trafalgar House.'

Trafalgar is unlikely to make a further announcement until early next week when it has finalised changes in its senior management. This is expected to involve the elevation of Allan Gormly, head of the engineering division, to chief executive - although this might not happen until Sir Eric Parker, who holds the post, retires next June. It might also mean the appointment of a new chairman to succeed Sir Nigel Broackes, who is likely to take a non-executive role.

While Jardine is keen that its request for board representation is accepted, it is not believed to be seeking the chairmanship. It is, however, likely to question Trafalgar's decision to put its Ritz hotel chain up for sale, believing this is not the best time to achieve a good price for the business.