Vickers looks for marine alliances

THE ENGINEERING group Vickers yesterday laid out plans to expand its marine division further following the pounds 304m acquisition of the Norwegian group Ulstein last year.

Marine sales will account for half of Vickers' pounds 1bn turnover this year, now that it has sold off Rolls-Royce and Cosworth and closed its Leeds tank factory.

But Baron Buysse, the Belgian chief executive of Vickers, said it aimed to exploit its world leadership in marine propulsion to grow the business through alliances and bolt-on acquisitions.

"We have had approaches from other marine companies interested in joining with us and you may well see joint ventures in the near future with major global engineering companies," he said.

Vickers was also examining the scope for widening its marine activities by acquiring smaller family-owned businesses in related fields, he added.

He was speaking as Vickers announced a jump in pre-tax profits last year from pounds 19m to pounds 157m, swollen by net proceeds from the sale of Rolls and Cosworth to Volkswagen of Germany. Operating profit before exceptional items fell from pounds 76m to pounds 42m after restructuring charges.

Defence sales are expected to fall from pounds 344m last year to around pounds 250m this year as deliveries of Challenger II tanks to the Ministry of Defence run down. But Vickers remains hopeful of winning a pounds 1.5bn tank order from Greece and is currently working on a pounds 100m order for 20 tanks from Oman. Vickers also hopes to win a pounds 100m MoD order for a smaller tank, known as the Future Engineer Tank, towards the end of this year.

The group also hopes to forge a joint venture with the French tank manufacturer Giat by the end of this year. The two groups signed a memorandum of understanding in January but they are studying a wider alliance.