Weekes resigns as Rothmans Holdings chief

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'WHERE there's smoke there's fire' was the City's cynical interpretation of the way the tobacco giant Rothmans International yesterday confirmed the resignation of Ray Weekes, chief executive of its depressed Australasian operation.

'He has not been fired, and we will miss him,' was the official line emanating from the office of Lord Swaythling, chairman of Rothmans.

According to John Utz, chairman of the Australasian offshoot, Rothmans Holdings, Mr Weekes had resigned for 'personal reasons'.

While there is no reason to doubt Rothmans' explanation of the events surrounding Mr Weekes' departure, the company is guilty of poor communications.

Analysts thought the departure would probably benefit Rothmans, given last year's near- 50 per cent fall in profits in Australia to Adollars 68.8m ( pounds 26m).

But that message was not clear to the market-makers, who yesterday clipped 20p off the tightly held and thinly traded shares to pounds 10.54.

The lack of information even fuelled some speculation that the company might dip into its pounds 770m cash pile to buy full control of Rothmans Holdings.