Lucas brakes plant in Wales to be sold

MORE THAN 900 Welsh workers were waiting to discover their fate yesterday after LucasVarity, the car parts maker, announced plans to sell its heavy vehicle braking systems division.

Lucas said it was too early to comment on the future of its staff in Cwmbran, South Wales, where the division's only UK plant is sited.

The Anglo-American group added that it hoped to find a buyer by the end of the year after receiving a number of "strong expressions of interest" for the heavy vehicle brakes division.

Analysts said that the division could attract a price of up to pounds 119m, which amounts to around two-thirds of last year's turnover of pounds 170m.

The unit manufacturers brakes for buses and trucks, and has its headquarters in Ohio in the United States. It has suffered from increased competition and it is seen as peripheral to Lucas's automotive business, which derives a large share of its sales and profits from light vehicle brakes.

Victor Rice, the group chief executive, said: "We have concluded that the division cannot alone sustain a leadership position in a sector that is undergoing rapid consolidation."

The disposal is part of a major restructuring of Lucas's automotive business, which is one of its two core operations alongside its aerospace engineering activities.

The company is to create a single division, LucasVarity Automotive, which will bring together its light vehicle braking, after-market operations, diesel systems and electrical and electronic activities.

The overhaul is aimed at cutting costs and improving efficiency in a business sector which is experiencing greater competition.

The market welcomed the news, and LucasVarity shares rose 4p to 217.5p against the trend of a sharp market fall .