Sleepy Newman ripe for a hungry predator: comment

Just as everyone else is doing the splits, having decided that conglomerates are out and "focused" businesses are in, along comes a blast from the past to turn back the clock. Jeff Whalley is best remembered as part of the duo at FKI that blazed an acquisition trail across the industrial landscape in the Eighties until it came horribly unstuck with the reverse takeover of the contracting group Babcock.

Well, Mr Whalley is back with another partner and this time FKI's target is the sleepy old maker of architectural hardware (doorknobs to you and me), Newman Tonks, which yesterday found itself on the wrong end of a pounds 196m bid.

Naturally, Mr Whalley and his new partner, Bob Beeston, eschew any suggestion that the bid is a throwback to the conglomerate-happy days of the Eighties when you were only as good as your last and preferably hostile bid.

FKI, they insist, is a reformed character - an international manufacturing group focused on a range of complementary businesses. Whilst it is true, amazingly enough, that this is FKI's first hostile bid, its portfolio of businesses would nevertheless appear to fit the description of conglomerate unless there is some connection between car headlights, conveyor belts and castors that the rest of us have missed.

The rationale for the bid, in as much as one exists, is that by welding together Newman Tonks with FKI's existing hardware group it will create a business that merits the word "core". In reality, it is an opportunist offer. Newman Tonks has performed abysmally on most measures of shareholder return. So much so, in fact, that its biggest institutional investor, M&G, has already thrown in the towel with gusto, irrevocably undertaking to vote its 11 per cent stake in favour of the offer even if a higher bid comes along. For a shareholder that normally backs incumbent management to the hilt, that speaks volumes about the current leadership of Newman Tonks.

For its part, Newman Tonks, has already begun making noises about a white knight - a sure sign of desperation when the offer document has not even been posted and the bid clock is yet to start.

Mr Whalley has already splashed out pounds 260m this year on an Italian manufacturer of car alternators, an electrical power business and another doorknob maker - all in the name of focus, of course.

The combination of a hungry predator, a disillusioned shareholder and an indifferent track record is not the most auspicious platforms from which to launch a defence of Newman Tonks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk