Archie Norman joins the hunt for acquisitions at textile group French

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The Independent Online
FRENCH, THE tiny textile group which hired Archie Norman as its chairman in September, is on the look-out for acquisitions.

The company said Mr Norman was actively involved in the search for deals and had also helped develop "serious interest" from potential UK institutional investors.

William Gleave, French's chief executive, who met Mr Norman at an awards ceremony, said yesterday: "Archie is a tremendously good communicator. We swap two to three e-mails a day and I speak to him on the phone two to three times a week. He is more available to us than people might think."

On the possibility of an imminent deal Mr Gleave said: "We're looking at buying branded businesses, taking out inefficient manufacturing and using our skills in supply chain management to become more cost-effective."

The comments came as French reported a swing into the black for the year to 2 October. Profits came in at pounds 1.1m compared with a loss of pounds 2.1m in the previous year.

French makes curtain accessories, bedding and cushions and said all three of its core divisions produced satisfactory profits against a relatively weak market. The company said yesterday that its Northern Textiles division has won a five-year rolling licensing contract with Slumberland to market branded soft furnishings.

French has developed a stellar list of backers. In addition to Archie Norman, the former Asda chief as chairman, investors include Julian Richer, the hi-fi retailer who has a 14 per cent stake, and Jim Martin, the chief executive of Manchester mail order group N Brown.

The shares rose 5p to 76.5p yesterday, valuing the company at about pounds 11m.