Rival's 20% stake angers Devenish

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THE continued presence of Boddington on its share register yesterday drew further venom from Devenish, the West Country pub group that survived a takeover bid from the Manchester- based rival 18 months ago.

Devenish's latest results again had to share equal billing with the City's thoughts about whether bid hostilities would resume. Opinion is divided.

Analysts expect Devenish to show a 12.5 per cent profits improvement in 1992/93 on the pounds 12.8m made before property disposals and tax in the year to 30 September.

'Devenish is beginning to look too expensive for Boddington,' one analyst said.

Boddington remains non- committal about its intentions. Denis Cassidy, chairman, said: 'We maintain that what we're holding here is a strategic stake in a changing industry - we are unaffected by these results.'

John Clark, chief executive of Devenish, was more forthcoming about the 20 per cent shareholder. 'We would rather they sold up and disappeared. As far as we're concerned that's a hostile situation.'

The opportunity to bow out at a big profit did exist earlier this year, when Devenish's shares hit 291p against the 210p Boddington paid during the bid. Devenish yesterday closed at 259p, up 5p, while Boddington rose 6p to 188p.

Part of Boddington's rise stemmed from the 25.6 per cent increase in Devenish's dividend to 7.85p. That, coupled with falling interest rates, has lowered the once pounds 1m-plus carrying costs of Boddington's 10.5 million shares to less than pounds 600,000.

Although Devenish's results rose by 31 per cent in 1991/92, the profits had to bear a pounds 700,000 hit caused by the poor summer weather in Cornwall, home to one-third of its 532 pubs.

That problem was largely overcome by continued growth in food sales, whose share of turnover rose from 14.7 to 15.8 per cent, and is budgeted to grow to 20 per cent this year. Total turnover rose from pounds 62.5m to pounds 72.7m.