Waterford steps in with alternative plan for Royal Doulton

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The Independent Online

Royal Doulton, the fine china group, halted plans for an £18.9m rescue rights issue yesterday after Waterford Wedgwood stepped in with an alternative restructuring plan.

The loss-making Royal Doulton, which last month announced it was axing a further 1,000 jobs, agreed to postpone an extraordinary shareholder meeting by a week to 15 March to give it time to consider Waterford's proposal.

Waterford, the Irish china and crystal group that this week increased its stake in Royal Doulton to 21.2 per cent, reiterated yesterday it did not intend to make a takeover offer for its rival and that its share holding was merely strategic.

The group, which is chaired by Sir Anthony O'Reilly, who is also the executive chairman of Independent News & Media, the publisher of The Independent, added it "reserved the right to reconsider its position in the event Royal Doulton was to receive an offer from a third party". Wedgwood declined to give further details of its proposal.

Royal Doulton was forced to resort to a rights issue to fund a £20m restructuring programme that will see the closure of its Stoke-on-Trent plant as well as 100 stores worldwide. It had intended to price the £18.9m rights issue at 8p a share. Yesterday its shares were flat at 14.25p.

Observers suggested the two companies may come to an agreement to remove further manufacturing capacity from an industry that has suffered from a slump in demand caused by the US downturn.

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