OUTLOOK: Gaddafi stands in the way of a Lonrho hotels sale

Tiny may have been pushed upstairs but Dieter Bock should not think he's got rid of the old curmudgeon just yet. No skeletons in the cupboard is the party line but how would you describe Colonel Gaddafi's £177m stake in the Metropole hotel chain?

It is hard to see how Lonrho can be serious about floating off its hotch-potch of hotels with the Libyans aboard, even if investors could be persuaded of the logic of subscribing for shares in such a widespread group of luxury, business and holiday hotels.

Recent moves by Forte and others suggest that the future lies in branding, not in diversified groups with no thematic or geographic focus.

That is a shame for Lonrho because Mr Bock is probably right that the only way to persuade investors of the intrinsic value of its businesses is to effect a quasi-break up of the group and get the market to put a value on its constituent parts.

The hotels could be worth the best part of £1bn themselves and the whole group might be fairly valued at more than 200p a share rather than the 158.5p at which they closed yesterday.

Tiny says he will sell out when the shares reach 250p. If his scepticism about future flotations proves correct, that might be a coded way of telling Mr Bock that he won't be ready to clear his Cheapside desk at the end of the year.

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