This month has seen Wassall, the adhesives-to-office-furniture group, locked in a cat-and-mouse bidding game for Allied Carpets, with finance director Fred Watt playing a critical role in the potential acquisition. Analysts expect the company, which releases its first-half results today, to maintain a consistent growth pattern, based on the continual review of the market in search of potential acquisitions. Watt, who qualified as a chartered accountant with Grant Thornton, was appointed to the board in 1994 and has been central to the company's performance since then. The company's high-profile bid for the ailing carpet retail chain against French group Tapis Saint-Maclou highlights the importance of the FD in finding potential acquisitions. 'My job is to look at the big picture - do we think we could do something with this business and add value to the investment? We do not just look at the quick fix,' he says. It is a view shared by City analysts. 'Wassall acquires companies which are undervalued and uses its expertise to turn the businesses around,' says one. Watt keeps close contacts with the City and regularly receives ideas about new acquisitions. Allied Carpets, which hit the news last year through major accounting irregularities worth about £3m, attracted Wassall after careful internal research. 'We found that the accounting problems had been built up out of proportion and the market's reaction went over the top. We were concerned, but the irregularities should not affect the ability of Allied to make future earnings,' Watt explains. Although Allied has since made significant changes to management over the past year, it has failed to make a impact on stagnating sales - results which caused the company's chairman, accountant Julian Lee, to proclaim that last year had been 'the worst in the company's history', with pre-tax losses of £4.2m. Wassall will continue to look for new acquisitions beyond Allied to ensure that it satisfies expectations of full-year pre-tax profits of £47m, an increase of 87% on last year.
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