T&N shares plunge on asbestos ruling

Investors in T&N, the car part manufacturer that used to be one of the world's largest asbestos producers, yesterday took fright of news that the company had lost an important American legal battle over future asbestos claims. Almost pounds 90m was wiped off the value of T&N as the shares plunged by more than 10 per cent to 143p on the news, which came just before the stock market closed.

The US Supreme Court yesterday ruled that a $1.3bn (pounds 781m) class action, which effectively fixed the amount of compensation T&N would have to pay to US asbestos victims, was illegal. The collapse of the class action, called the Georgine settlement, paves the way for a flood of claims from the hundreds of thousands of asbestos victims who have brought actions against T&N.

Analysts believe the court ruling will cost T&N pounds 150m in extra asbestos claims. There are 19 other asbestos producers involved in the Georgine settlement.

T&N claimed, however, that it had already made provisions to cover the rise in asbestos costs. "We have fully provided for the appeal being lost. There are no financial consequences not already allowed for," a T&N spokeswoman said yesterday. Nevertheless the decision is a blow to the group which is trying to cap its asbestos liabilities after paying out more than pounds 350m in claims.

Last November T&N secured a pounds 1.2bn insurance deal designed to ring-fence its liabilities. Under the plan, T&N has put aside pounds 690m to cover future claims. Any payments after that are covered by a pounds 500m insurance policy. But the Georgine decision raises doubts about the extent of any future US payments.

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