Reported in July 1983
BET are a large holding company with many other interests apart from Rediffusion. BET’s head office at Stratton House in Piccadilly, London, employs only 70 head office staff. Because of the wide range of its operations, the group tends to be very decentralised.
In the year ended April 1982, the group had a turnover of just over one thousand million pounds, of which Rediffusion contributed about one-quarter. Profit before taxation was £67 million. The company’s early wealth - as the name might suggest - came from trams.
It was formed in 1896 with two aims: “The carriage of passengers and goods, and the generation and distribution of electricity.”
Within five years, it had 124 miles of tramway, and by 1914, it had electrified tramways all over the UK. After the first world war, BET began electrifying tramways in many overseas countries - and in the UK, they also started up their first motor bus service.
Soon, BET owned and operated many of the major bus companies in this country. Meanwhile, it had built a number of power stations to achieve its other objective: providing electricity.
But the nature of BET began to change. After the second world war, the Labour government nationalised electricity supply, and in 1968 the government bought BET’s bus companies. BET had a lot of compensation money to invest, and began to diversify into manyareas. It first acquired a shareholding in Rediffusion - then Broadcast Relay Services - in 1947, but did not become the controlling shareholder until 1967.
Its interests today cover companies too numerous to mention, but among the most important are:
ADVANCE SERVICES. Hires out linen and provides laundry services, for instance providing roller towels in toilets. BET also own nearly half of INITIAL, another linen hire firm.
THE ARGUS PRESS. An expanding group which boosted profits almost three fold in 1982. It operates in the UK and the USA, and its British publications include dozens of technical publications such as Sheet Metal Industries, many local newspapers in the south east, 15 electronics magazines such as Video Today and Personal Computing, and magazines for modelling enthusiasts such as Model Railways.
B I FFA. Handle domestic and chemical waste disposal from seven depots in the UK.
BOULTON & PAUL. Make ladders, scaffolding, steel construction, joinery and other products connected with the building industry.
EDDISON PLANT, GRAYSTON, J.D.WHITE. Hire out cranes, scaffolding and other plant.
THAMES TELEVISION, Also with Rediffusion, BET own half of Thames Television, who have the weekday commercial TV franchise in the London area.
UNITED TRANSPORT. Largest BET subsidiary, it carries freight and passengers in countries throughout the world, including France, West Germany, Holland, the USA, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi and even Fiji.
WEMBLEY STADIUM. BET, together with Rediffusion own the world famous stadium as well as the Wembly conference complex and arena.
OIL EXPLORATION. BET own 5% of a consortium led by Phillips Petroleum, which is operating in the Maureen oil field in the North Sea. It also has interests in a number of exploration blocks.
REDIFFUSION. The British Electric Traction Group, historically Rediffusion’s largest shareholder, is buying all the Rediffiusion shares
it did not own. It already owned almost two thirds of Rediffusion, so the decision will not affect the control of the company. The initial announcement came on March 23, and then on April 26 the directors of BET and Rediffusion said they had reached agreement on the deal.
BET offered Rediffusion’s shareholders five BET shares for every three they owned in Rediffusion. Alternatively, they could take 350p cash for each Rediffusion share. That offer valued the outstanding shares at £121 million, and it has now been accepted for over 90% of the minority shares.
A statement issued by directors of both companies said: “Rediffusion will continue to operate under its present management and board
of directors in the same way as it has in the past. The acquisition of the minority interest in Rediffusion will have no effect on the position of the employees of Rediffusion, whose present rights and conditions of employment, including pension rights, will be maintained.
“The Board of Rediffusion will remain as presently constituted, and a further director of Rediffusion will be invited to join Mr Denny and Mr Dundas on the BET Board.”
BET chairman Hugh Dundas said when announcing the bid: “There is obviously a very good future for electronic home entertainment, video and cable, and Rediffusion is light years ahead of anybody else in this field.”
Hugh Dundas CBE, BET Chairman
Nicholas Wills, BET Managing Director