BICC sells telecoms cable unit for pounds 82m

THE RESTRUCTURING of BICC, the cables and construction group, continued yesterday with the surprise sale of its telecommunications cable business to Corning of the US for pounds 82m, writes Michael Harrison.

The sale will further slim BICC down, leaving it with just an energy and data cables division and Balfour Beatty, now specialising in rail maintenance and building management.

Analysts were surprised that BICC had decided to quit the high growth telecoms sector of the cable market, and the shares fell by 5p to 84.5p. But Alan Jones, chief executive, defended the "radical move" on the grounds that BICC did not have the resources to expand the division and invest in the latest optical technologies. He said the deal would reduce the volatility of BICC's earnings

The business, which has 2,000 employees, made a pounds 15m loss last year compared with a pounds 17m profit in 1997, due to a 40 per cent decline in prices and the Asian economic downturn.