Sharks rugby tycoon surfaces as buyer for ailing Ultraframe

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The Independent Online

Brian Kennedy, the millionaire owner of the Sale Sharks rugby club, has agreed to buy the loss-making conservatory roof maker Ultraframe in a deal worth nearly £30m.

With any luck, Mr Kennedy will have the same impact at Ultraframe as he has had at the small Manchester rugby union club. Sale won its first Premiership last weekend, six years after Mr Kennedy came to its rescue.

Mr Kennedy has a £250m fortune, and was named one of the UK's top 250 richest people in this year'sSunday Times Rich List. In partnership with Stuart Lees, who runs Latium Plastics, Mr Kennedy will pay 30p a share for Ultraframe, a 2.4 per cent premium on the share price the day before it announced it was in takeover talks. Debt finance will be provided by Bank of Scotland.

Mr Kennedy, the son of an Edinburgh window cleaner, built his fortune on the back of double glazing, after selling the Everest business in 2003, as well as home-improvement companies and mobile phones.

The purchase of Ultraframe, which makes the roofing technology for use in conservatories, will strengthen his operating company Latium's portfolio and provide economies of scale across product lines. Latium is also involved in plastic extrusion and glass processing. One analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, said about the collapse in Ultraframe's fortunes: "At long last Brian Kennedy has put everyone out of their misery."

Ultraframe announced a strategic review in December after a turbulent few years. Six years ago, the company was valued at more than £600m, but its fortunes plummeted as the market for big-ticket home-improvement items declined. Competition from large distributors, including B&Q and Homebase, has also increased. The analyst said: "The problem for Ultraframe is that most people that want a conservatory have got one. Not many of them would pay to replace an existing conservatory either." Ultraframe had considered a sale of either its UK or US assets before agreeing to Mr Kennedy's offer.

Mr Lees said he does not plan to make substantial job cuts once the deal is complete. Latium will look to improve Ultraframe's service delivery, he added.

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