Germans clinch Lancer purchase: Tripled offer welcomed by UK operation

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JUNGHEINRICH, the Hamburg- based forklift truck maker, has bought Lancer Boss for pounds 18m after tripling its bid in a week. The deal, to be announced today, comes three weeks after the German company made its controversial purchase of Steinbock, Boss's Bavarian subsidiary.

Robert Bischof, chairman of Jungheinrich GB, offered about pounds 6m to Grant Thornton, Lancer Boss's receivers, on Tuesday last week. Grant Thornton received two other offers, one of which was for pounds 13m from Terex, owner of the biggest US forklift truck group, Clark. The other came from a management buy-in team headed by a South Africa-based entrepreneur, Roman Simonovitch, who was backed by 3i and Pruventure.

The management buy-in team's interest appeared to wane at the end of last week, but Mr Bischof and David Langevin, head of Terex, continued to negotiate with the receivers through the weekend.

Jungheinrich, which will be able to reintegrate the Lancer operation at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, with Steinbock, raised the price sufficiently to clinch the deal on Tuesday night. It was strongly supported by management and unions.

The pounds 18m offer will clear most of the pounds 20m debt owed to the group's creditor banks, National Westminster, Standard Chartered and the London branch of Dresdner Bank.

A further pounds 3m to pounds 5m is likely to be raised from the sale of farmland either owned by Lancer Boss or pledged as collateral. The accountancy firm Begbies hopes to sell 2,000 acres that surround Toddington Manor in Bedfordshire, home of Lancer's founder and former chairman, Sir Neville Bowman- Shaw. About 40 per cent of this is owned by Lancer Boss, with another 25 per cent owned by Toddington Manor Farms, which is administered by Begbies.

The farm includes a visitors' centre with a collection of rare breeds as well as 105 vintage tractors. Sir Neville built the collection over 30 years.

It seems unlikely that he and his brother Trevor, who are listed as having a pounds 66m fortune in the Sunday Times Book of the Rich, will receive anything from the sale of the group, though Sir Neville will keep Toddington Manor.

Steinbock Boss was placed into receivership in early April after Sir Neville complained that its Bavarian banks had used strong-arm tactics in an attempt to force him to sell it to Jungheinrich. Lancer Boss was put into receivership as a result, and a week later the German administrator sold Steinbock to Jungheinrich for 'a nominal sum'. The DTI has been in touch with European Commission officials to ask for the affair to be investigated.

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