View from City Road: Riding the Lonrho tandem

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The Independent Online
As they made clear just six months ago, Dieter Bock and 'Tiny' Rowland, joint chief executives of Lonrho, are in complete agreement about Lonrho's strategy and future. You might be forgiven for thinking otherwise, however. Certainly they have not yet managed to synchronise their scripts.

At yesterday's results briefing, they scarcely seemed to be able to agree on anything. Mr Rowland insisted that what Lonrho needed was a large acquisition; its gearing is too low because it is not doing enough.

MrBock agreed entirely. It's just that it might not be an acquisition - would a joint venture do instead? Oh, and we want to keep our gearing at about the current level. Yes, of course we could use shares, Mr Rowland, but I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea we were planning a big rights issue.

All of which brings us no closer to the truth about who is really running Lonrho - or what it will look like when the real boss does emerge.

That may not happen until Mr Rowland departs - and yesterday he was sticking to his pledge, albeit a vague one, to go in 'two or three years'. Even that won't mean we have seen the last of him, he insists. 'I won't retire, I'll just start again.' Poor Mr Bock.

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