Cookson and JM in ceramics link-up: Joint venture will be second-largest operator with particular emphasis on Far East markets

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JOHNSON Matthey and Cookson, two of Britain's largest industrial materials and precious metals companies, are to pool their ceramics decoration businesses.

The new joint venture company will be called Cookson Matthey Ceramics and owned 50/50 by the two parents. Sales in the first year will be about pounds 250m and operating profits about pounds 25m.

Chris Clark, managing director of JM, will be chief executive of the new company. Richard Oster, chief executive of Cookson, will be CMC's chairman.

Both men said the business logic behind the link-up was that Cookson and JM had different but complementary operations in decorative ceramics. Cookson makes glazes for tableware and tiles. JM is big in transfer printing and precious metal decoration.

Mr Oster said: 'Neither company was really big enough to compete in the global market for this kind of business. Together we will be the second-largest worldwide operator.'

He added that the full benefits of the venture would probably come through in three or four years' time. 'We hope that two plus two will not equal five, but six or seven,' he said.

The new company will expand product ranges and will have bigger clout in purchasing and more resources for research and development.

Particular efforts will focus on the Far East, where CMC forecasts growth in demand for tiles and tableware to be more than 10 per cent a year.

Mr Clark said: 'Linkage has been an idea in the minds of both companies for several years, but several attempts to join up have failed.'

CMC will initially have 26 plants around the world, with six in the UK. Total workforce will be nearly 3,000. Rationalisation of the business is likely. CMC said: 'As the two businesses are merged there will be opportunities for improvements in operating efficiency . . . This will give rise to significant rationalisation costs but these will be fully justified by a fast payback in the ongoing business.'

But Mr Clark said: 'This is a joint venture that is going to grow, not shrink. At this point we do not envisage job losses or closures but to be honest we do not know.'

(Photograph omitted)