£181m kiss of life for car parts company

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The Independent Online
Automotive Products, the maker of clutches, brakes and other vehicle components, is to resume life as an independent company following a £181m buyout from BBA Group.

Financed by CINVen, the coal pension fund, the company will be run by Brian Gaunt, currently managing director of BBA's clutch division.

Because of a £51m goodwill write-off when AP was bought in 1986, the effect for BBA will be a £22.6m loss, which Sandy Morris, a NatWest Securities analyst, said would cost £10m of pre-tax profits.

Mr Morris added that interest gained on the sale proceeds would not compensate for the loss of earnings from AP, which is expected to make £10m before tax this year after £6.2m last year on turnover of £293m.

BBA said it was selling AP, which makes Borg & Beck power transmission systems and Lockheed brakes for companies such as Rover and Fiat, because it wanted to concentrate on being a "tightly-focused group of specialist businesses" in transport and industrial materials.

It is retaining a small interest in AP's results, with a deal to take 20 per cent of any profit made over a specified target rate of return for the first few years.

Roberto Quarta, BBA chief executive, said that with zero gearing and available cash of £100m the group could make sizeable acquisitions, and that the US and Pacific Rim were the most likely targets.But he refused to give any details of the company's plans.

Mr Quarta said the sale of AP was substantially the end of the company's disposal programme, which included the sale of the three industrial material companies 12 months ago for £24m, the Angus fire protection group in November for £79.5m and Scandura North America this January for $40m.

Mr Morris said BBA faced an "interesting challenge" to find acquisitions in the Pacific Rim that would achieve the "above-average margins" that are its stated policy. NatWest'sforecast of £117m pre-tax profit, EPS of 15.2p and a 6p dividend this year is unchanged.

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