OUTLOOK: Broadgate battle has just begun

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The Independent Online
John Ritblat is pretty pleased with himself, as well he might be, having finally taken control of Stanhope. But when the history of the battle for Broadgate is written, taking out the crippled property developer will be seen as the easy bit - the poker game has barely begun.

Ownership of Stanhope gives him half of the prestigious office complex he has coveted for the past two years. If he succeeds in finishing the job, as he probably will eventually, it will be a fitting culmination of Mr Ritblat's handling of the recession.He has capitalised on it better than any other developer. However, taking on Roger Oldfield at KPMG, who as receiver to Rosehaugh controls the other half, will tax even Mr Ritblat's legendary powers of persuasion. This time he has met his match.

When British Land took a 29 per cent stake in Stanhope last February it knew that all it had to do was wait. Stanhope would always be the weaker party in any negotiation. Now the tables have been turned. Despite his carefully worded protestations last year that rising interest rates had reduced the value of Broadgate to British Land, Mr Ritblat has been unable to disguise just how much he wants to get his hands on Britain's most potentially valuable office development.

Now he is the weak negotiator. Mr Oldfield is right to say that the deal with PosTel he was prepared to recommend a month ago, worth between £110m and £120m, is history. The situation is now different.

It was always KPMG's intention to hang on into the middle of 1995 so as to ride the property cycle and maximise the proceeds for Rosehaugh's lending banks as shortages of space put increasing upward pressure on rents and therefore capital values.

Yesterday the receiver said: "We regard British Land's acquisition as the vote of confidence in the Broadgate developments which coincides with our view of the value and further substantial growth opportunities in Broadgate Properties."

That is thinly disguised code for "OK, Mr Ritblat, if you really think this asset is worth so much make us a decent offer." This one has a way to run yet.

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