US FIRM QUITS BISCUIT RACE

THE US venture capital firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, which bought Hillsdown Holdings this year, has ruled out a bid for United Biscuits.

Hicks Muse, which owns the Peak Freans brand, was previously a hot favourite in the City to bid for UB, whose products include McVitie's, Penguin, Jaffa Cakes, KP, Skips and Phileas Fogg.

UB, which is expected to command a price tag of about $ l.2 billion, admitted last week it had received an approach that might lead to an offer.

However, Hicks Muse's departure leaves just four serious bidders for some or all of UB.

They are two venture capitalists - Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and CVC Capital Partners - as well as Nabisco, America's leading biscuits firm, and Danone, the French food group that owns Jacob's cream crackers and HP sauce. (S.T.)

17.Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging, I look down.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

My God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man. (S.H.)




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