Wilkes denies being in talks with Suter

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The Independent Online
SHARES in the Sheffield engineer James Wilkes fell 3 per cent yesterday when the company said it was not involved in bid talks.

Takeover speculation has been rife since last week when Suter, the mini-conglomerate chaired by David Abell, raised its shareholding in Wilkes from 19 to 29 per cent.

Mr Abell has made no secret of his interest in Wilkes. He recently described the company as 'a very attractive proposition'.

Wilkes' share price has increased by 50 per cent, from 120p to 182p, since the beginning of the month. Yesterday it closed down 6p at 176p.

The company said it recognised the sharp jump in the value of its shares. It added: 'Other than the recent speculation concerning the intentions of Suter, the board is not aware of any specific reason for this increase and confirms that it is not currently in discussions with Suter or any other party.'

A spokesman for Wilkes did not commit the company to any course of action were a bid to materialise. 'We have had no contact with anyone. If we do, we will make a judgement on the merits of the approach when it comes,' he said.

Mr Abell yesterday declined to comment on the situation. He has a reputation in the City for buying large stakes in companies and selling out at a profit. Suter also owns 20 per cent of Hartons, a plastics distributor.

During 1985 and 1986 Suter built a 27 per cent stake in the foundry business FH Lloyd, now part of Triplex Lloyd, and talked of making a full bid. However, the stake was eventually placed.

If Suter does attempt a takeover, it will be the second approach Wilkes has received. In 1991 it fought off a bid from Petrocon, which has since changed its name to Beverley Group.