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Outlook: Wassall/BICC

IT USED to be the case that if one company wanted to buy another, it would approach its target and suggest a price. If the recipient said no, the predator would either mount a hostile bid or give up. Either way, the only bids that made their way on to the Stock Exchange screens were real ones.

Not any more. The latest fad for buyers who have been rebuffed is to tell the whole world about it. Wassall, the wannabe venture capitalist, last night revealed it had made a 90p a share offer to the board of BICC, the cables and construction company, but had been rejected. The object of the exercise, which does not commit Wassall to doing anything at all, is to embarrass the BICC board before its shareholders and ferment some action. Actually, these shareholders would have preferred a real bid to a virtual one.

This does not mean, however, that BICC deserves to escape. Despite years of restructuring Alan Jones, the chief executive, has failed to revive the company's prospects. Despite this, the company still runs a London headquarters in Mayfair more suggestive of the FTSE 100 stock it once was than the small cap enterprise it now is.

BICC must, as Wassall has surmised, be worth more than 90p a share, which is little more than half the level of a year ago. But the present management has been unable to realise it.