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Shares surge as BIL grasps Thistle

Friday 4th July 2003

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Here's a company you probably never thought to see here; good old BIL International.

Whoever was on the sell side of the transaction that saw BIL's share price hit this year's low of 41c three months ago will be well-pleased with their investment.

Since then the share price has doubled.

The rise is on the back of BIL's successful takeover of the minority interest in Britain's Thistle Hotels which, in true BIL form, has been coloured by controversy.

The year started (taking an unrelated tangent) with an article in Singapore's Straits Times detailing how former chief financial officer Andrew Shepherd was suing the company, which is suing him back. The lawsuit relates to allegations he cooked BIL's books for the December 2001 half-year.

The Thistle takeover cat was already well and truly out of the bag on February 24 when BIL was forced to say publicly it was considering a bid after Thistle shares went into a rapid climb. It confirmed a £1.15 a share cash offer on March 5 and increased it to £1.30 on April 30. It's unclear why investors think the Thistle acquisition is so positive; the hotel chain has been a millstone round BIL's neck ever since it first misjudged its entry.

Last year BIL made a $US10.4 million profit but lost that and more ($US18 million) in the first half.

With the exception of the unsellable Molokai Ranch and a Fraser & Neave stake which BIL has been selling down steadily, Thistle is now the only significant asset on its books.

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