Homecraft team in the money after £29m sale

The backers of the buyout almost four years ago of Homecraft were yesterday bathing in a 900 per cent return on their original investment as Smith & Nephew agreed to pay £29m for the maker of mobility devices for disabled and elderly people. Homecraft, founded in the 1940s, was bought out of Dzus International in March 1991. Glyn Rowlands, chairman of Homecraft, and Alan Aikman, managing director, are understood to be sharing £6m between them from the cash sale to Smith & Nephew, the international healthcare group.

Mr Rowlands, who is staying with the company for the next couple of years, declined to "discuss this level of detail".

The other original backers of Homecraft, which has 170 employees, include three venture capital groups, Thompson Clive & Partners, 3i, and Grosvenor Development Capital. A controlling 52.3 per cent stake was held by Thompson and 3i, which will jointly bank £15.17m from the sale.

John Robinson, chief executive of S&N, said: "Our strategy is to concentrate on high-growth opportunities within the healthcare market worldwide."

Homecraft's product range includes specially designed bathroom equipment, cutlery and devices that help elderly people to pick up objects.

Smith & Nephew is getting a company with a stated net asset value of £2m and which made profits of £2.9m before tax from sales of £12.6m in 1994.

Mr Aikman said: "The UK and overseas markets continue to grow steadily and this is expected to be maintained due to population demographics, and more awareness of the needs of the disabled and elderly."