View from City Road: Suter suffers from mark of Abell

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The Independent Online
INVESTORS were wrong to jump to the conclusion yesterday that David Abell, the chairman of Suter, had been cleared of all wrongdoing and the cloud of suspicion had been lifted from him and his company with the publication of the long-awaited DTI inspectors' report. The share price rose 6p to 125p yesterday but it may fall back once the detail has been absorbed.

True, the inspectors found no evidence of a concert party. But they did say that the relationship between Mr Abell and Michael Somerset-Leeke, then a stockbroker, 'was similar to that which the legislation relating to concert parties seeks to prohibit'. They proposed changes in the law to cover cases where two people are dealing together so one of them can acquire shares in a target later. This suggestion should be adopted by Neil Hamilton's company law review.

The report provides good reason for saying Mr Abell should no longer run a public company. The most damning fact is that he bought shares in Metal Closures for himself 20 minutes before he bought further shares in the company for Suter. He compounded his misdemeanour by giving contradictory statements to the inspectors that were not only inconsistent with each other but with an affidavit he had given earlier.

It is, however, a pity that it took the inspectors so long to produce their report even if much of the delay was due to secretive Swiss banks. During the four and a half years since the inspectors were appointed much damage has been done. Companies with which Suter was once compared have surged ahead. The only way forward for Suter now is for Mr Abell to step down.

(Photograph omitted)