By Robert Head
British Leyland shares languished on the Stock Exchange yesterday at 15p each – less than the cost of two and a half pints of petrol these days. And at the Savoy Hotel, the boss Lord Stokes, was bemoaning his company’s value.
His firm ‘by far the largest exporting company of any kind in this country ‘ was valued on the Stock Exchange at only £90 million, ‘the value of a single office block in the City of London.’
He asked: ‘Which is more valuable to the nation: British Leyland or one office block?’
He said: ‘The rules of the game may well have to be changed to alter a situation where share prices of major wealth earning companies are low, compared with some of the extravagant figures realized for less essential and less wealth producing activities.’
It depends what you mean by wealth. Even Lord Stokes had to admit yesterday his company cannot make profits while working at only 60 per cent capacity in three-day-week Britain.
British Leyland earned a splendid £744 million overseas last year. But, of course, we had to import a lot of fuel and raw materials to keep its factories going.
Meanwhile the bankers, traders, brokers, insurance and investment people in those £90 million office blocks earned the nation at least £6 billion overseas last year.
On the long term, Lord Stokes is confident British Leyland is ‘in a relatively good position.’ Indeed the accounts show Lord Stokes has bought a further 41900 Brtish Leyland shares, bringing his holding up to 81,500, worth about £12,000 at todays price.
He told me: ‘If I had some more money I would buy more shares now.’