Reckless Enterprise

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The Independent Online
THERE are plenty of scapegoats for Enterprise's failure to capture Lasmo. The bid was a botched job from start to finish. I wrote four weeks ago that Graham Hearne, the chairman and chief executive, should walk away. But as I feared, the scent of blood in his nostrils proved too strong. He raised the all- paper offer and then last week spent pounds 170m in cash buying 10 per cent of Lasmo in the stock market.

It was a move that might have been applauded as courageous if the bid had succeeded. As it is, it looks extravagant and reckless. Enterprise is now lumbered with a useless stake in Lasmo, one already in the books for a pounds 32m loss.

The purchase was even more ill- considered because it infuriated Lasmo shareholders who would like to have sold for cash but were not approached. It may even have persuaded some waverers to reject the bid.

As Enterprise's broking advisers, Warburg Securities and James Capel were responsible for gauging market sentiment and advising on whether to proceed with the cash purchase. Either they catastophically misjudged the market mood, or they were overruled by a gung-ho Mr Hearne. Someone must be deeply embarrassed this weekend.