Dartington plans market flotation after pounds 10m buyout: Tableware maker expects sales in US and Britain to lead to 'great advances'

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DARTINGTON Crystal, the tableware and gift manufacturer, is planning a stock market flotation in three years following yesterday's announcement of a pounds 10m management buyout from BTR.

Eric Dancer, managing director, said good growth in the US export market and a gradual improvement at home would lead to great advances in turnover and profits.

Sales last year were pounds 9m, with exports accounting for 15 per cent. More than pounds 1m of turnover is from Dartington's own factory shop in Torrington, Devon, which attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year.

BTR, which acquired Dartington in 1991 as part of its purchase of Rockware, the glass group, will receive pounds 4.71m from the buyout, largely funded by 3i, the venture capital group. It will have debts of pounds 3.25m repaid.

Dartington, which is raising a further pounds 2m to fund future growth plans, was set up in 1967 under the auspices of the Dartington Hall Trust.

The trust was founded in the 1930s to try to overcome the ravages of rural depopulation in north Devon following the decline in agriculture in the region.

Over the past 27 years Dartington has had several owners. In 1982, Wedgwood bought a 50 per cent stake from the trust - relinquished when it was itself taken over by Waterford Crystal in 1987. Rockware took a 75 per cent stake in 1989, increasing its holding to 95 per cent in 1990.

Dartington's 230 employees will have a chance to profit from the planned flotation of the company through two share option schemes.

The majority of the shares are owned by 3i, with the Bank of Scotland providing debt and working capital.

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