Hanson sells off Seven Seas

Hanson sold its Seven Seas vitamins business to Merck of Germany yesterday, completing the pounds 2bn disposal programme it flagged last November. The pounds 150m price tag was in line with expectations and, together with the controversial sale of the conglomerate's National Grid stake, brought the week's sales proceeds to pounds 555m.

The deal, which analysts said was a full price at almost three times Seven Seas' annual sales of pounds 59m, was the latest transaction in a blizzard of corporate activity since last summer when Hanson moved seriously into the electricity market with the acquisition of Eastern Group, the regional electricity distributor.

The pounds 2.5bn cost of that purchase, together with the more than pounds 2bn cost of buying five power stations from PowerGen and National Power, sent Hanson's gearing well over 100 per cent and prompted a rash of disposals.

Sales have included the withdrawal from North American timber, with the disposal of Cavenham Forest Industries, to raise pounds 1.3bn. The flotation of Suburban Propane in March chipped in a further pounds 510m and there have been smaller sales, including the former RECs' pump-storage business, raising pounds 70m, and Eveready of South Africa for pounds 84m.

Hanson is now more or less in shape for its planned four-way split into its core constituent businesses and yesterday Christopher Collins, vice-chairman, promised the demerger was on course. He said the chemicals and tobacco arms would be ready to be spun off by the targeted date of Hanson's September year-end with Energy being cast adrift by the end of the calendar year.

Hanson's shares closed 1p lower yesterday at 196.5p, confirming the market's continuing scepticism about Hanson's prospects, whether in one slice or four. As the chart below shows, they have underperformed the rest of the market by a sizeable amount since the Eastern acquisition.

Seven Seas was acquired in 1986 as part of Hanson's purchase of Imperial Tobacco, Britain's second-largest cigarette manufacturer. As part of a bigger package it is not possible to say how much it was valued at 10 years ago, but Derek Bonham, chief executive, said the business had "achieved continuous growth with Hanson".

Seven Seas will continue to be based in Hull, where most of its products are made and the jobs of its 400 staff are understood to be safe. Edward Roberts, the head of Merck's pharmaceutical unit, said the acquisition is part of a drive to boost sales of over-the-counter medicines. He said the company will look to take Seven Seas to other European markets.

Lutz Kunert, an industry analyst in Frankfurt, said sales at Seven Seas are expected to grow about 10 per cent in 1996, in line with the growth of over-the-counter drugs sales as a whole.

"It is a very interesting move by Merck,'' he said. "The company has not yet reached critical mass in over-the-counter medicines, but cuts in health budgets round the world mean OTC is a good place to be.''

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones