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Outlook: Battle for Bilton

HAS SLOUGH ESTATES done enough to secure control of Bilton? The outcome, to be decided on Friday, depends on three shareholders - the Glenhazel Investment Trust, the Percy Bilton Charity, and Schroders asset management. If the trust, which is largely owned by members of the late Percy Bilton's family, votes against, the charity will follow suit and the company may survive.

For these shareholders, as for many family trusts, the critical factor will be income. Bilton may have been unimaginatively and nepotistically managed over the years since Percy Bilton's death, but unlike Slough, it does have an 18 year record of unbroken dividend growth.

It's hard to see how Slough's 307p a share bid could be better invested for income growth, while the discount to net assets of 340p a share is still quite wide. If sufficient members of the Bilton family want capital realisation, then it's all over. But it could be that Slough has been just a tad too mean to guarantee victory.