Business news in brief

Ocean Group, the logistics, marine and environmental services group, said it had sold its offshore support services business OIL for pounds 328m. OIL supplies marine services to the offshore oil and gas industry with a fleet of around 100 vessels in the North Sea and around the world. In the year to December it made an operating profit of pounds 21.1m and had capital employed of pounds 91.8m.

Finelist has agreed to buy Maccess Group from Heywood Williams for pounds 23m cash plus the repayment of pounds 9.6m debt. The deal will be financed by a placing and open offer of 12.5 million new shares at 345p. It is Finelist's second cash call in three months and will raise about pounds 41m. Maccess, which distributes branded and own-label motor accessories, car care products and replacement parts, made an operating profit of pounds 3.9m in 1996.

In a blow to Airbus Industrie, Delta Air Lines last night named Boeing as its exclusive supplier for domestic aircraft in a deal that could be worth more than $15bn over the next 25 years. Delta announced $6.7bn in firm orders for 106 aircraft through to 2006, and options and rolling options on 538 others. Delta executive vice president, Harry Alger, said Boeing had faced intense competition from the European aircraft consortium Airbus but had won on start-up costs and order flexibility.

Ivory & Sime yesterday announced it would lose pounds 460m in funds under management after BAA's pension scheme decided to move its contract to Mercury Asset Management. BAA's decision follows a spate of resignations at the Edinburgh-based fund manager earlier this year.

Pre-tax profits at brick maker Ibstock fell from pounds 26.1m to pounds 8.3m, hit by poor trading from both its pulp and brick operations and pounds 4m in restructuring costs following the pounds 166m acquisition of Redland's brick manufacturing last year. According to the company, the price of bricks remained at the lowest level for several years.

Geest made an pounds 18m profit on the sale of its banana business to Fyffes, but even before the one-off boost operating profits doubled after good growth in convenience foods, the disposal of loss-making businesses and improved capacity utilisation. Profits before tax and exceptionals rose 73 per cent to pounds 17.3m.

Hanson has made its first acquisition since a four-way split broke up the former conglomerate. The company, which is now focused on building materials, bought Concrete Pipe and Products in the US for pounds 78m. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, CP&P made an operating profit of pounds 10m last year.

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