Rank sells Precision Engineering for pounds 72m

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Rank Organisation, the Butlins to Hard Rock Cafe group, yesterday kicked off its planned pounds 300m disposal programme with the pounds 72m sale of Rank Precision Industries, an engineering group.

The proceeds will help pay for the Tom Cobleigh pub chain, which Rank agreed to buy last week in a pounds 113m deal, although they will initially be used to reduce borrowings. Rank's shares added 1p to 428p yesterday.

The four businesses grouped under Rank Precision Industries are being sold to Schroder Ventures, the venture capital arm of Rank's merchant banking advisers, which has put together two management buy-in teams for the deal. The consideration comprises pounds 63m in cash and pounds 9m in loan notes.

The sale follows the shake-up of the business instigated by Andrew Teare, who took over as chief executive earlier this year. As well as laying the groundwork for the sale of its pounds 1bn-plus stake in the Rank Xerox copier group, Mr Teare last month unveiled plans to dispose of pounds 300m of peripheral assets over the next two years.

He said yesterday: "Our strategic review in August clearly identified Rank's focus on leisure retailing and film and entertainment services. RPI's engineering businesses do not fit within this strategy."

There was no news yesterday of progress on the sale of the other operations earmarked for sale, which include the Shearings holiday coach firm and Kingston Plantation, a US holiday business. Rank would make no comment on reports that a pounds 75m buyout led by a former director, Angus Crichton- Miller, was the preferred bidder for Shearings.

Yesterday's sale involved four businesses which are said to hark back to Rank's days as a film maker. RPI comprises Taylor Hobson, a maker of precision measuring equipment; Strand Lighting, involved in theatrical and studio lighting; Cintel, which manufactures telecine equipment; and the electronic display products division of Brimar. The digital projection business, formerly part of Brimar, is not being sold.

Taylor Hobson, Cintel and Brimar are to form a new group, Precision Instruments, which will be headed by Phil Tempest. Strand is to form a separate pounds 21m deal led by Jim Ryan.