Tiny lambasts hotels demerger

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Tiny Rowland, the ousted boss of Lonrho, launched another vitriolic attack yesterday on the new management of the minings and hotel group he led for 30 years, and their plans to float the Princess and Metropole hotels business.

Mr Rowland's attack on chief executive Dieter Bock's demerger plans, in the form of a "circular to shareholders" and advertised in national newspapers, drew a withering counter-blast from Lonrho.

Mr Rowland still owns 3 million Lonrho shares and demanded a "substantial dividend" for investors, who he said were "locked in with a poor dividend and a poor share price".

His calls for a special dividend were dismissed by a spokesman for Lonrho as "nonsense. He doesn't understand the tax implications of that."

Mr Rowland attacked the role of Anglo-American, the South African mining group, which holds 9.8 per cent of Lonrho. He accused Anglo of trying to take control of Lonrho's affairs via investment bank SBC Warburg, which is advising Princess on the pounds 700m float.

"Our company is no longer a growth stock," Mr Rowland said. "No company of any significance has been added to the group in the last three years, and if the existing assets are to be further stripped, their value must return to the shareholders of Lonrho.

"Our geese may well all be swans, now that they are ticketed for the market, but shareholders must ensure they get at least the value of the goose."

The 78-year-old tycoon also accused Mr Bock of having aided Anglo in this attempt by granting the group an 18 per cent option over Lonrho's shares. Mr Rowland demanded that Mr Bock publish details of the share option agreement with Anglo.

"Non-disclosure of all the terms has been and will continue to be a drag on the share price," Mr Rowland said.

The Lonrho spokesman countered: "SBC Warburg are advising Princess hotels, and Deutsche Morgan Grenfell are advising Lonrho, as they always have done. I am not aware that Anglo own any hotels. They are a mining group. There is no conflict of interest." He added: "The options that Mr Bock provided to Anglo are only exercisable post-demerger. The proceeds from the Princess flotation will be used to reduce Lonrho's debts to almost zero. Mr Bock has already reduced Lonrho's debts by half since he took over from Mr Rowland."

Mr Rowland also accuses Lonrho of having overpaid "by at least pounds 70m" when it bought back the third share of Metropole Hotels from Libyan-based Lafico earlier this month. To which the Lonrho spokesman retorted: "When Mr Rowland originally sold a third of Metropole to the Libyans for pounds 177m, he halved the Lonrho share price overnight."Since Mr Bock took over the share price has recovered from 73p to 177p."