Vosper shrugs off frigate loss

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The Independent Online
Vosper Thornycroft, the Southampton-based warship builder, yesterday shrugged off the disappointment of losing a pounds 400m Royal Navy frigate order to its arch rival, GEC, by posting a 10 per cent increase in profits and setting its sights on more than pounds 1bn worth of overseas business.

Lord Wakeham, the company's chairman, said he looked forward to receiving "the highest level" of government support in Vosper's bid to secure warship contracts from the Middle East and Far East.

He was speaking as Vosper unveiled an increase in profits to pounds 27.6m after taking nearly pounds 4m in restructuring charges to cover 300 redundancies caused by the loss of the Type 23 frigate order to GEC.

Despite this the order book still stands in excess of pounds 450m while Vosper has pounds 80m in cash to help fund acquisitions in its burgeoning non-naval business.

The yard hopes to win a second order for minehunters from Saudi Arabia worth an estimated pounds 400m despite the diplomatic furore over the dissident Mohammed al-Masari.

Vosper is also tendering to supply frigates to the United Arab Emirates and fast patrol boats to Qatar while it is among six shortlisted bidders for an order for up to 27 offshore patrol vessels from Malaysia.

Lord Wakeham said Vosper had been disappointed to lose the Type 23 frigate order to GEC's Yarrow yard on the Clyde but added that the closely fought contest had underlined the importance to the Ministry of Defence in having competition in warship building.

In the face of a lag in domestic orders, Vosper is building its activities in outsourcing and facilities management. It has won three management contracts including a pounds 250m deal to run Britain's naval training centres in partnership with GEC. Vosper is also bidding to take over the running of Portsmouth Dockyard.

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