Dunlop sold in BTR re-focus

Out of play: CINVen picks up sporting brands and equipment operation for pounds 300m

TOM STEVENSON

Deputy City Editor

Dunlop Slazenger, owner of some of the sporting world's strongest brands, was sold yesterday for pounds 300m. The disposal is the latest move in a clear- out of BTR's peripheral businesses as the industrial conglomerate focuses on its manufacturing operations around the world. CINVen, the former venture capital arm of the British Coal pension fund, is the buyer, with the deal expected to be finalised early next year.

The golf balls to tennis rackets operation was acquired in the early 1980s as part of the pounds 549m acquisition of Dunlop's sports, leisure, aerospace and general products operations. Brand names include Maxfli and Carlton as well as the main two lines. In the UK, the business acts as sole distributor of Puma products.

The deal is the second sizeable purchase by CINVen since British Coal sold the business to its managers. Last week it spent pounds 179m on the health- care division of Compass Group. Other buyouts backed by the group this year include Automotive Products for pounds 181m and Corgi Classics for pounds 13m.

For BTR, the deal represents the latest stage in a continuing focus on its world-wide manufacturing operations. Last month it sold Tilcon, a UK quarrying business, to Minorco for pounds 330m and the same company's US activities are widely tipped to be on the block.

Both deals are being used to reduce BTR's debts, which have been given a sizeable boost by the acquisition, announced earlier in the year, of BTR Nylex, the company's Australian subsidiary.

The tidying up of BTR's portfolio marks the end of an era at the company, weeks before Alan Jackson, its Australian chief executive, hands over the reins to the new boss, Ian Strachan from RTZ.

BTR's shares were unchanged on the news yesterday at 316p as the market waited on further details of the disposal. There was no indication of Dunlop Slazenger's profitability although the business is understood to have improved its performance throughout the recession.

Last year, in the face of economic slowdown and a reduction in the number of people playing tennis, more precisely targeted racket lines were launched and the cricket operation was strengthened by the inclusion of clothing and footwear in the Slazenger range.

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