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pounds 71m Williams sale `could herald more'

Williams Holdings, the international manufacturing group, refused to rule out further disposals of non-core activities following yesterday's sale of its electronics arm for pounds 71m.

However, Roger Carr, chief executive of the former conglomerate that is increasingly focusing on fire protection, security and building products, said sales were likely to be over the medium term.

Mr Carr said: "There are one or two businesses in the building products division that may be considered for sale in the future, but today's sale of the electronics division does not herald a fresh wave of disposals.

"In building products, we will continue to focus on those businesses that have a true international dimension," Mr Carr said, adding: "We are still committed to the smaller, nationally-based businesses, but there may come a time when we will consider sales or divestments of these units." The sale of the electronics business, SAIA Burgess Electronics, based in Switzerland, had been expected for some time, though the price achieved was slightly higher than anticipated.

Under the terms of the deal, SAIA's management will have a 10 per cent stake and venture capitalists from SBC Equity Partners, part of SBC Warburg, and QCM Partners will hold 70 per cent. Williams will continue to hold 20 per cent.

In the year to 31 December 1995, SAIA made pre-tax profits of pounds 8.1m on sales of pounds 109m. Analysts predict that the deal, which is likely to realise Williams a small exceptional gain, will enable the company to reduce gearing from approximately 90 per cent to about 50 per cent.

Under Mr Carr, Williams has battled to shed its conglomerate tag by building up the businesses identified as its core activities. The company's shares closed down 1p at 336p.