GKN wins court ruling on Westland: Speed of Arab litigation surprises company

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GKN, the automotive component, industrial services and defence group, received another boost yesterday from its subsidiary Westland's long-running litigation with the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation.

The Commercial Court said that UK banks holding funds for the AOI owed to Westland should pay the money to GKN, although the AOI immediately said it would file an appeal.

Westland has so far recovered pounds 140m of a pounds 385m judgment against the AOI, relating to a cancelled helicopter order, and the court decision is likely to cover the pounds 245m outstanding.

The speed at which the AOI litigation has proceeded has come as a surprise to GKN and former shareholders in Westland. When GKN took over Westland in April in a hostile pounds 577m bid it gave shareholders the option of a lower cash bid but the chance of participating in any AOI settlement.

Only 150 Westland shareholders took this option. Last month the litigation threw up a pounds 115m windfall payment, which has largely gone to GKN shareholders. GKN shares rose 8p to 624p yesterday.

Frank Turner, finance director, said a pounds 200m counter-suit was still outstanding in Egyptian courts against Westland, which meant the eventual outcome could not be predicted with any certainty.

At the same time there could be sound commercial reasons why GKN might not press for all the outstanding funds, in view of the opportunities the Arab world offered to GKN and Westland. An amicable settlement was the preferred solution.