Three UK companies snap up German firms after tax change

THREE SEPARATE UK companies announced the acquisition of family businesses in Germany yesterday.

The deals are a result of the decision by Oskar Lafontaine, the German finance minister, to withdraw the concession allowing family businesses to pay only half the 50 per cent gains tax on disposals up to DM30m with effect from the end of 1998.

In all three cases existing management will stay on with the new owners.

Berisford International, the former commodities business that was reborn as a supplier of equipment to the food industry and owner of the Magnet kitchens brand, has bought Convotherm Elektrogerate, a privately-owned business making commercial ovens.

The price is dependent on 1998 profits but is expected to be around pounds 13m in cash. The business manufactures ovens for supermarkets to meet the growing demand for hot, prepared meals.

Polypipe, a specialist manufacturer of plastic products, is paying pounds 9m in cash for Pagette, which manufactures plastic toilet seats and WC cisterns. Pagette will become part of Polypipe's bathroom and kitchen products division.

Lavendon Group, which hires out powered ladders and gantries, is paying pounds 6.1m in cash for Albert Fuerg, a family-owned firm in the same line of business.

The price includes pounds 3.6m of debt and will be earnings enhancing in 1999 before amortisation of goodwill, David Shipman, Lavendon's managing director, said yesterday. The acquisition will take Lavendon into southern Germany and extend its business in the east.

Lavendon also reported a 60 per cent jump in turnover to pounds 14.65m and a 53 per cent rise in profits to pounds 2.36m in the six months to the end of June 1998. The shares, which halved in the shake-out last summer, recovered 13.5p to 285p yesterday.