Revived Optare sells Malaysia 1,000 buses

OPTARE, the Leeds-based bus maker, will announce tomorrow a contract to sell 1,000 vehicles to Malaysia over the next five years. This follows last week's announcement by Proton, the Malaysian car company, that it is to manufacture Rover engines under licence.

Under the pounds 25m deal, Optare will provide kits of its MetroRider 'midibus', which will be assembled locally. Although the Malaysian content will rise, all main components will continue to be supplied from the UK. The contract, Optare's first Asian order, is a notable success for a company that has had a rocky history, even by British industrial standards. It must be one of the few groups to have been bought twice by the same management.

Until 1984, the Leeds factory was part of British Leyland. It was closed down, but was restarted the following year by the management and employees, who raised pounds 250,000, and West Yorkshire Enterprise Board, which provided the same. The new company started building small buses for the newly deregulated operators, and by 1990 was turning over pounds 13m. In that year it was sold to United Bus, an international group backed by Daf of Holland for pounds 3.5m.

Late last year United Bus collapsed (this was not related to the Daf receivership early in 1993) and in December the same team, led by Russell Richardson, bought Optare again, for a reputed pounds 4m. Turnover this year should reach pounds 29m and, Mr Richardson said, 'there should be a significant profit'.

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