Westland chairman attacks GKN

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WESTLAND's retiring chairman, Sir Leslie Fletcher, used the helicopter manufacturer's annual meeting yesterday to make a fresh attack on the pounds 497m hostile bid from GKN, the defence, engineering and components group.

Meanwhile, GKN released its offer document, in which Sir David Lees, chairman, emphasised that GKN was strongly committed to Westland, its management, employees and products.

But Sir Leslie told the Westland shareholders' meeting that the bid lacked strategic logic and failed to value Westland's prospects properly. He said: 'The board will consider GKN's offer document carefully and, as you would expect, will write to shareholders providing further detailed advice. In the meantime, shareholders are urged to take no action in relation to the offers and not to sell their shares.'

He added that the market had given its judgement on the GKN offer, marking the shares up to close at 333p yesterday, 43p above GKN's offer of 290p. The day before the bid, Westland's shares closed at 305p.

GKN already has 47 per cent of its prey, having paid pounds 75m for an 18.7 per cent stake owned by United Technologies, the US company that makes Sikorsky helicopters. The bid values the shares that GKN does not already own at pounds 366m and is being financed partly by a pounds 248m rights issue.

At the annual meeting, Alan Jones, Westland's chief executive, said the ultimate financial outcome of proceedings against the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation could not be predicted with certainty. Westland is suing the AOI over the collapse of a Lynx helicopter deal in the late 1970s. GKN has promised a slice of any proceeds from the litigation to Westland shareholders.

If the bid is successful, which seems unlikely at the current offer price, the combined group would have a turnover of pounds 3bn.