Waterford beds US linens deal

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The Independent Online

Waterford Wedgwood, the Irish crystal and china producer, is buying a controlling stake in Ashling Corporation, the American bed linens business, for $9.5m (£6.8m).

Waterford will finance the deal by issuing 9.3 million new shares priced at 1.20 euros to Ashling's parent company, Fitzwilton. It has also agreed to pay up to $2.6m in 2002 if Ashling attains a certain level of operating profit by the end of December this year.

Waterford is chaired by Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who is also part of a group which controls Fitzwilton. Sir Anthony is also executive chairman of Independent News & Media, which publishes The Independent.

The 13.5 per cent shareholding in Ashling not owned by Fitzwilton is owned by the California-based company's president Patrick McCullagh. Mr McCullagh will continue to hold these shares and will remain in his role at Ashling.

Redmond O'Donoghue, president of Waterford, said: "Ashling gives us an even more meaningful position in the world of linens and textiles and we will continue to extend this category into new markets."

Ashling has been under licence from Waterford to sell Waterford Linens since 1995 and Wedgwood Linens since earlier this year.

Ashling achieved sales of $35.2m in the year ended 31 December 2000 and generated operating profits of $2.7m.

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