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Triplex challenged on orders

William Cook, the steel castings group that is vigorously defending a pounds 58m bid from Triplex Lloyd, has challenged the Birmingham-based engineer to issue a profit forecast following negative reports about the state of the UK and European automotive components markets.

In a highly unusual move designed to turn the tables on the bidder, William Cook highlighted yesterday's announcement from Ford, a customer of Triplex Lloyd, about big job cuts at its Halewood factory on Merseyside.

"Triplex Lloyd ... should come clean about its own prospects," said Andrew Cook, executive chairman. He said "unsubstantiated talk about new orders" should not divert shareholders from asking how many of Triplex Lloyd's big automotive customers were experiencing a downturn. Margins in its automotive division had been in decline, he said.

His comments drew an angry response from Triplex Lloyd, which said passenger cars represented only a sixth of its business. "Clearly William Cook does not understand Triplex Lloyd's business," a spokeswoman said.

"Our automotive business is very much commercial vehicle related, with Perkins being the main customer. To talk about Ford is entirely irrelevant."

The company had no intention of making any trading statement, she said.