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Just 10 days after the death of its greatest critic, John Foulston, the board of IBL Plc has agreed to sell out to Inspectorate International at a derisory 41p a share. The deal values IBL at just UKP29.4m, below even its net book asset value, and below its value at Wednesday’s close. It is Swiss-based Inspectorate’s third acquisition of a UK-listed leasing company in little more than a year. Last June, Inspectorate paid UKP1.65m for CPS Computer Group Plc (CI No 453) and in April this year paid UKP51m for United Leasing Plc (CI No 654), merging both into its Meridian operation (CI No 757). Despite Meridian managing director Ian Orrick’s assertion that it is a bloody good company, IBL may take some time to sort out, hence the 18p discount to the market price. In its two-year public career, it lurched from one crisis to another. Its two sets of annual results since the UKP100m June 1985 flotation were both extremely late – the shares were suspended by the Stock Exchange after one such delay last year (CI No 447) – and way below market expectations. The latest figures, announced on June 1 (CI No 693), showed pre-tax profits of UKP4.5m for the year to December 31 1986 on turnover of UKP342m. Despite a UKP1.38m gain from changes in accounting policy, this was less than half City forecasts and substantially down on the disappointing 1985 figures. Early last week, two of the company’s banks called in their loans, leaving the board with little option but to sell out. The outcome would have come as no surprise to the late Atlantic chairman John Foulston. From the start, he campaigned against IBL, accusing broker Rowe and Pitman of taking advantage of favourable conditions by bringing an unfit company to market at a time when you could have floated a rubber duck. Foulston maintained that the company was in breach of its articles of association with a gearing level that at times touched 300%. He believed that the IBL was worth 32p a share and late last year made IBL chairman and 55% shareholder Phil Coussens an offer that reflected his valuation. So, as Foulston predicted last year (CI No 511), there is now only one listed computer leasing company in the UK. Inspectorate has, with the acquisition, overtaken Atlantic as the biggest player in the home market and has strengthened its operations in the Netherlands, France, West Germany and Italy. According to Ian Orrick, Inspectorate won IBL after a competitive auction. The auction is believed to have included Dataserv, Econocom International and possibly the acquisitive British and Commonwealth.

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CBR Staff Writer

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