Powerscreen lists disposals

ONE OF Northern Ireland's leading listed companies, Powerscreen International, yesterday announced a pounds 50m disposal programme in an attempt to clear the slate after two profit warnings and the announcement of an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office had put the firm's future in doubt. The SFO was involved after a report by KPMG had discovered overstated earnings and other irregularities at its Matbro aggregates business.

The planned disposals will be mainly in the materials handling business, leaving the group to concentrate on screening and crushing of rock, and will substantially clear outstanding debts, the company said yesterday. Managers who were alleged to have been aware of problems at Matbro as long ago as the middle of 1997 had now left the company. The shares rallied 30p to 100.5p but analysts warned that the delayed results for the year to 31 March are still likely to show a substantial loss.

The company warned at the time of the SFO enquiry that it faced losses of pounds 10m in the year to 31 March. Last month a second warning forecast losses would be around pounds 65m, including pounds 20m attributable to earlier years.