HC Deb 31 March 1881 vol 260 cc348-9

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If his attention has been called to a letter in the "Times" of Saturday, stating that the 176,602 shares in the Suez Canal Company, purchased by the late Government in 1875, have now a price of "78," showing "the handsome profit of £10,242,916;" whether it is not the fact that 176,602 shares so purchased had their interest coupons detached prior to such purchase; and, whether such shares are not absolutely unsaleable at any profit whatever?


asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If his attention has been called to the enormous rise during the last few years in the value of the Suez Canal Shares; and, if he can, in reference to the 176,602 shares held by the British Government, state the difference in value between the price paid for them in 1876 and the latest market quotation, first, on the assumption that they are now entitled to the same dividend coupons as other ordinary shares, and, secondly, making an actuarial calculation for the difference in their deferred value; and, whether the 5 per cent annuity guaranteed by the Egyptian Government for nineteen years has hitherto been regularly paid?


It is in the recollection of the House that 176,000 odd shares in the Suez Canal were purchased in 1875 by the Government, and that the price given for them was £4,076,000. That was at the rate of about £23 per share. The interest coupons on these shares were detached from them until the year 1894, when the Government will be entitled to take dividends on the shares. In the meantime they are entitled to receive £5 per cent on the purchase money from the Egyptian Government, and that has been regularly paid. With regard to the Question whether these shares can be sold, I am not aware whether there is any legal provision on the point; but there is no doubt that, as far as the market is con- cerned, arrangements could be made for selling them if it were deemed expedient, and it was quite evident they could be sold at a convenient profit. It is stated that the present value of Suez Canal shares is about £78, and that is a price which, I believe, has been recently obtained. They were purchased, as I stated, at £23 1s. 8d., and at that time the price of the shares in the market was about £30; the difference between those two sums represents the sum set down by the Government in their calculations against the postponement of profit on the shares to the year 1894. The share profit is now considered to be worth in the market £58 on the £20 share, receiving profit continuously; but when the period to which the profit on the 176,000 shares is deferred is taken into account, then it may be held to be relatively £27 more than in 1875. Consequently, there may be said to have accrued a gain of £4,750,000 on the purchase of the shares.