Sale spells end for Hambros

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THE DEATH knell finally sounded for one of the City's oldest institutions yesterday when Hambros sold most of its remaining assets to Investec of South Africa for pounds 428m.

The deal marks the end of the break-up process initiated last year following a series of difficulties at the bank.

Investec's offer, described as "full and fair" by analysts, does not include the bank's stakes in Hambro Countrywide, the estate agency, or Hambro Insurance Services (HIS). Both Countrywide and HIS are to be demerged from the group.

Sir Chips Keswick, Hambros' chairman, said: "I believe that these proposed offers are attractive for the shareholders of Hambros and are the best available option for realising value. They will also provide a definitive solution to the future of Hambros."

The deal puts a break-up value on the company of 307p a share, at the top end of City estimates. Hambros' shares leapt on the news of Investec's offer and ended the day up 12.5p at 292.5p.

The Hambros' assets sold to Investec include a cash surplus of pounds 231m realised from the sale of the group's core banking business to Societe Generale of France, a Canadian fund manager, and Hambros' diverse direct investment portfolio, comprising some 50 holdings.

The package also includes Hambros' 44 per cent stake in Guinness Flight Hambro Asset Management (Guinness Flight). This will bring Investec's stake in Guinness Flight to 88 per cent following its acquisition of Guinness Mahon - another old British banking name - earlier this year. At the time of the Guinness Mahon sale, Guinness Flight management were thought to be unhappy with the new ownership arrangements and were said to be pushing for a management buy-out. An Investec spokesperson said yesterday that talks were ongoing between Investec and Guinness Flight management.

HIS, in which Hambros holds a 52 per cent stake, has appointed financial advisers DLJ Phoenix Securities to "assist in reviewing all options". This review may lead to an offer for the company.

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