15 September 1995

BFP- secret deal could be clinched soon

CONTRACTS are expected to have been exchanged by the end of the month on British Field Products, the farming company being sold by Royal Insurance.

An unprecedented wall of secrecy surrounds the most valuable sale of agricultural property ever. Following FARMERS WEEKLYs investigation by Catherine Paice (Land and Farms, Sept 8), one un-named source is convinced that a deal has been struck at around £60m, 25% higher than suggested.

Since the first offers for BFP valued it around £45m, land values have risen another 7-10%, farm business consultant David Bolton of Andersons points out. "Id be amazed if it got that high, but if you threw in the crops and the cash and so on, and valued the land at £2700-£2800/acre, I suppose it could get there."

Bank sources confirm that the market has been running at that level in certain areas for the past six weeks.

Property company Lands Improvement Group remains a strong contender in the buying stakes. Managing director Peter Clery would neither confirm nor deny its involvement. Colleague Henry Richards followed suit but confirmed LIG was not involved in the failed management buyout bid.

It would be the third time this summer that it has veered away from its normal investments in tenanted land, following a recent £3.5m purchase of fellow property company Landmatch with 1272 acres of farmland, and the purchase of the 1758-acre Theobalds Estate on the M25 in Herts.

The original LIC backer, insurance company Clerical Medical, has not been ruled out as a key factor in the current deal, which would almost triple the value of LICs current portfolio.