Managers likely to buy BIH

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MANAGERS at British International Helicopters, formerly owned by the private interests of the late Robert Maxwell, look set to buy the company after the Department of Trade and Industry yesterday blocked a proposed merger with Bond Helicopters.

A provisional sale agreement has been signed with Arthur Andersen, joint administraor of BIH. The agreement is subject to clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority. Financing arrangements are expected to be confirmed soon.

The DTI blocked the merger, citing competition grounds following an investigation by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

The MMC said that if the merger took place only two operators would remain. Each would have about half the market to provide helicopter services to the UK offshore oil and gas industry.

It added that helicopter flight prices could be expected to rise.

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, said he had accepted undertakings from Bond and BIH not to go ahead with the merger. A spokesman for the DTI said: 'They (the MMC) considered that neither customers' buying power nor the prospect of new entry would prevent these effects and were unable to identify any remedies.'