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Morgan Crucible in pounds 170m chemicals sale

MORGAN CRUCIBLE, the industrial ceramics and carbon company, yesterday confirmed it was in talks to sell its chemical products business, the biggest part of a rationalisation caused by a slump in orders, writes Andrew Verity.

The group is this week expected to announce it is selling the division for pounds 170m to Illinois Tool Works of the US to address a profit fall that led to a 30 per cent share plunge in January. Graham Swetman, finance director, said: "We are in discussions with a potential buyer about the chemicals division in line with what we said about our new strategy earlier this year."

Morgan warned in January that it expected full-year profits to be at least 15 per cent below expectations owing to weakening customer demand.

The chemical products division suffered last year from cuts in production by Boeing, one of its largest customers. A strike at General Motors and de-stocking by microchip makers also affected sales.

Ian Norris, Morgan's new chief executive, foreshadowed the sale when he announced the result of a strategy review earlier this year. He said the Windsor-based group, a world leader in five of its specialist materials, would now focus on ceramics and carbon. Further disposals are expected, and analysts urged the company to use proceeds for an acquisition.