Outlook: BTR Siebe

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The Independent Online
EVERYTHING MUST go in the great BTR Siebe sale of the century. First it was Ian Strachan, the luckless chief executive of BTR, who is whiling away his time in the non-role of deputy chairman until the two businesses are integrated and he can up sticks in the summer. Then it was the name itself. The once great Birmingham Tyre and Rubber Company and Siebe Gorman, which used to known as a manufacturer of diving equipment, will soon be no more and instead we will have Invensys. Now BTR Siebe is embarking on a clearout of its unwanted businesses with the help of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

Since the portfolio contains more than 500 companies producing everything from industrial computer systems to the widgets that enable washing machines to offer 30 different spin cycles, there is plenty for the investment bankers to go at.

But you do not need to look far for the early candidates. Having already dispensed with the tyre and the rubber in BTR, it would be a miracle if the remaining automotive components business was still part of Invensys come the autumn.

A similar fate awaits its paper technology business which does not sit easily with the the group's core automation and controls businesses. How many more businesses will fail to live up to the new Invensys maxim of "innovation, inventiveness and systems solutions" remains to be seen. But it is hard to see some of the ragbag of businesses inherited from BTR like conveyor belt systems fitting the bill.

What else is up for grabs is anybody's guess. But, for the time being at least, it does not look as if Invensys will also sell off its birthright and relocate to the other side of the Atlantic. That must be a tempting option. Its chief executive is American, as are 30 per cent of the shareholders and the US accounts for approaching half sales and production.

But for the now the attractions of the UK are greater. London is nicely positioned between the times zones of the east and west, Heathrow is the best airport in the world to get anywhere you want to go and being based in such a small geographic market as the UK forces companies to think internationally.