Lonrho plans to regroup around four core divisions: Board acts to avert dispute with Dieter Bock

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LONRHO, the international trading conglomerate, said yesterday that it was planning to streamline its group around four main trading areas.

Lonrho executives moved to defuse a potential confrontation between Dieter Bock, the German businessman who holds an 18.8 per cent stake in the company, and the rest of the board over remarks he made in the German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Mr Bock had indicated that he wanted to sell 90 per cent of the group's 800 companies and possibly float off the rest as four separate units.

Paul Spicer, Lonrho's deputy chairman, said that a strategy had been agreed at board level to organise the company around four core divisions - mining, farming, agriculture and trading.

For the past two years Lonrho has been rationalising its operations through a range of disposals, including the sale of the Observer newspaper, to reduce group debt.

Mr Bock, since his arrival in the group as a large shareholder and joint chief executive earlier this year, has been keen to make his mark through making Lonrho more accountable as a company and more efficient.

Mr Spicer said that Mr Bock's remarks to the German press represented 'no radical difference' from what had already been discussed at board level.

One of Mr Bock's aides said that he was keen to merge some of the many small companies in Lonrho's trading operations.

However, Mr Bock's public pronouncements about his ideas will increase the mounting tension with Roland 'Tiny' Rowland, the company's dominant chief executive, who is seeking to reassert his supremacy within Lonrho.

Meanwhile, Lonrho will sign an agreement for a large gold-producing joint venture in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, which produces an estimated 70 to 80 tonnes of gold a year.

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