The move was enthusiastically received in the City and Charter's shares rose 51p to 714p. Investors have been anxious for the group to spend the pounds 156m cash balance accumulated when it sold its 38 per cent stake in Johnson Matthey last February, on which it was earning about 6 per cent interest.
Jeffrey Herbert, chief executive, said the group had considered other possibilities but was attracted to Esab because of its leading market position and the prospect of a strong profit recovery as world economies improved.
Esab, based in Gothenburg, has operations in 25 countries selling cutting automation equipment, equipment and consumables for welding, and industrial working equipment. Half its sales are in Europe, a quarter in North America and the rest as far afield as South America and the Far East.
In the year to December, Esab made income before tax of Skr82m which, after tax and minorities, became a loss of Skr247m on sales of Skr7bn. In the current year, it made Skr138m before tax, and Skr60m post-tax profit. It forecasts Skr300m, before tax, in a full year.
Incentive, the Swedish conglomerate that owns 43 per cent of Esab's shares, has accepted the offer which is now being extended to other shareholders.
Charter is partly funding the deal with a pounds 93m rights issue, at 560p a share. It is taking on about pounds 130m of debt. That will leave the combined group with borrowings of pounds 145m, on net assets of pounds 295m after a goodwill write-off of about pounds 150m. The debt includes a pounds 44m loan note from Johnson Matthey, due in 1996.
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