Securicor revamp lifts Cellnet bid hopes

Securicor, the security and Cellnet communications group, yesterday announced it was to sweep away its archaic multi-tier voting structure in a move that immediately fuelled speculation that the company was intent on selling its 40 per cent stake in Cellnet, the mobile telephone operator.

Securicor will combine its twin company, Security Services, in which it owns a 51 per cent stake, into one holding company called Securicor. It is scrapping its three different classes of shares, with the trustees of the original founders surrendering control.

The move pleased the City and Securicor `A' shares moved 200p higher at pounds 18.05. One analyst said: "It's long overdue and people have been looking for a simplification for some time. The company has been over-complicated."

Another said: "It will make the stock more liquid and the company easier to understand. A lot of institutions refuse to buy shares in companies with two-tier voting structures."

The City immediately started to speculate on the implications for Securicor's Cellnet stake. The Government last year blocked an attempt by Securicor to sell the Cellnet stake to BT, which already has a 60 per cent holding, by refusing "at present" to lift the ban on BT taking 100 per cent of the mobile company.

However, Sir Peter Bonfield, BT's new chief executive, is known to be keen to achieve full ownership. With competition increasing and the Orange flotation proving popular it is possible that the DTI might change its mind. There is also a view that a Labour government would look more favourably on the move, which BT has pursued since 1982.

City analysts believe that BT would have to pay about pounds 1.5bn for Cellnet, which accounts for about 70 per cent of Securicor's profits. When the sale was prevented last year Securicor said that it would not rule out disposal to a third party or "some sort of flotation".

The group said yesterday that no discussions are taking place with BT or any other potential buyer and that "the directors believe that the interests of shareholders will be best served by retaining the Cellnet stake for the present". However, it added: "Nevertheless, all options will be kept under review."

Under the terms of the deal, 600 million new shares will be created with Securicor shareholders owning 65.4 per cent and Security Services shareholders the remainder.

Existing Securicor shareholders will receive 6.7 new shares for every ordinary share and 3.8 new shares for their `A' shares. Security Services shareholders will receive 3.84 shares for each share held. Trading in the new shares should commence in June.

Comment, page 17

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