T&N, formerly Britain's biggest asbestos group, was yesterday celebrating what could be the end of massive asbestos claims overhanging the company after a US jury threw out a $185m case brought by Chase Manhattan. The share price soared 35p to 165p yesterday, adding pounds 185m to the company's stock market value, as both T&N and analysts heralded the outcome as a potential turning point in the asbestos litigation that has already cost pounds 200m over the past 10 years.
On Thursday a jury in a New York court decided against Chase Manhattan Bank after it had claimed it had not been warned about the dangers of asbestos installed in its headquarters building in the city. The outcome of the case, potentially the biggest relating to property facing T&N, came a matter of hours after a $600m claim against the company and 36 other defendants was settled for pounds 6.5m, a fraction of earlier estimates.
Colin Hope, T&N chairman, said yesterday the group was near to seeing the end of US property claims. Asbestos-related cases and illnesses would rumble on, he believed, but the trends in the company's liabilities were becoming more controlled. "I just do think we are coming slowly and steadily down the right side of the hill."
He warned that personal health cases were and remained a much bigger problem than those linked to property.
Sandy Morris, engineering analyst at NatWest Securities, said Chase could still appeal Thursday's decision, but added T&N appeared to have won a fairly comprehensive victory.