Williams completes disposals with £296m sale

Williams, the security and fire protection group, yesterday completed its £2bn disposal programme with the sale of two North American paint units, to finalise its evolution from conglomerate to focused business.

Roger Carr, chief executive, said: "The completion of these deals means that the group is now able to concentrate fully on the demerger programme and that Chubb and Kidde will be absolutely focused on their future performance and growth."

In March, Williams unveiled the £825m sale of its Yale locks business. Yesterday's announcement marked the final stage of Williams' withdrawal from the building products market.

The company plans, in the autumn, to demerge and separately float its remaining interests: Chubb, its security services business, and Kidde, its fire-protection division.

The company raised £296m from yesterday's disposals, which have been on the market for a year. It sold its North American Paint group of companies for £126m. Made up of four regional paint manufacturers, it went to the management, who are backed by the Jordon Company, a New York-based leveraged buyout specialist. The group reported pre-tax profits, before interest, of £20.6m last year, on sales of £221.1m.

In a separate £170m deal, it sold Masterchem Industries, which makes speciality paint primers, to Masco Corporation in Taylor, Michigan. Masterchem made a pre-tax profit, before interest, of £16.8m on sales of £66.4m last year.

Williams said it would use the proceeds to repay short-term debt and fund small acquisitions.

Andrew Darke, at Williams de Broe, said the demerger was meant to unlock value. "Fund managers want to orientate their portfolios themselves, rather than have conglomerates do it for them," he said. "But it will leave the two remaining Williams businesses [Chubb and Kidde] as bite-sized chunks for someone else to acquire."

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