Hanson sells 11 smaller businesses

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HANSON, the industrial conglomerate, is selling 11 of its smaller UK businesses for pounds 90m. The buyers are the management and Electra Private Equity Partners, which specialises in management buyouts.

A spokesman for Hanson said: 'This move underlines our concentration on our main businesses.' Under Derek Bonham, the deputy chairman and chief executive who is the designated successor to Lord Hanson, the company has switched its focus from traditional growth by deal-making to developing its core businesses.

Yesterday's announcement follows the sale of two US subsidaries to trade buyers in November and plans to float the Beazer housebuilding businesses.

Analysts have broadly welcomed the latest sale because it will help to reduce Hanson's pounds 3.4bn net debt, even though the disposal of the 11 businesses - which made profits of pounds 12.2m on turnover of pounds 83.8m in the year to September - will slightly dilute earnings. Hanson's share price closed up 1p at 2731 2 p.

Hanson's gearing before the disposals stood at 86 per cent, up from 18 per cent the previous year, thanks to the acquisition of the debt-laden Quantum Chemicals in the US. Hanson's dividend last quarter was frozen for the first time.

A company spokesman said: 'Hanson will not be seeking to sell other companies.' He reiterated its claim that it would continue to look for further acquisitions.

However, analyst Paul Beaufrere, of James Capel, believes that Hanson's debt will remain too high after the latest move. 'There could be scope for more disposals,' he said.

Tim Snyder, of Electra Group, said: 'We recognised that Hanson needed to reduce gearing and approached them about our interest in buying some of their businesses.'

The management of the new company formed from the 11, under Les Ashford, present chief executive of Hanson Industrial Services, will own 20 per cent of the equity. Electra will retain the rest.