Cook attacks Triplex Lloyd track record

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The Independent Online
William Cook, the Sheffield steel castings group on the receiving end of a hostile pounds 58m bid from Triplex Lloyd, yesterday sought to increase the pressure on its Midlands rival to raise its bid by launching a highly personal attack on the predator's "chequered" track record.

In a surprise twist to the bitter bid battle, William Cook said Colin Cooke, Triplex Lloyd's chairman, "should accept responsibility for the series of losses, failed acquisitions and decline in sales that have occurred during his tenure of office".

Noting that Triplex Lloyd had made losses in three of the last six years, William Cook went on to claim that the bid lacked any industrial logic because there were no significant head office cost savings or manufacturing synergies to be had.

William Cook also attacked Graham Lockyer, Triplex Lloyd's managing director, claiming his time at the helm of Dowty Aerospace between 1990 and 1992 coincided with a collapse in profits.

Triplex Lloyd dismissed William Cook's attack, saying the record of the new management team in increasing profits and strengthening profits spoke for itself.

"William Cook's latest document again seeks to distract attention from the real issues by concentrating on Triplex Lloyd's record before its new management team was recruited," said Graham Locker, Triplex Lloyd's chief executive.

Mr Lockyer joined Triplex Lloyd in July 1994 while finance director Bob Mitchell came on board a year earlier.

Triplex Lloyd also insisted that its core skills in the use of molten metals and moulds to make cast products was the same as William Cook's. William Cook is mainly involved in castings while Triplex Lloyd is a more diversified engineering group which serves the automotive and other industries.

And in a reference to the corporate lifestyle of Andrew Cook, William Cook's pounds 500,000-a-year executive chairman, Triplex Lloyd added: "If Andrew Cook cannot see where substantial head office savings might come from, he cannot be looking very far."

Analysts say Triplex Lloyd will have to increase its bid to at least 400p to land William Cook. Triplex Lloyd is offering 309p in cash and shares, with a cash alternative of 295p, but last night William Cook's shares closed unchanged at 357.5p.

The war of words between the two sides has become increasingly bitter. The bid timetable has been extended indefinitely until the Office of Fair Trading completes its assessment of the proposed takeover.

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