Williams 'close to making purchase in America'

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The Independent Online
WILLIAMS Holdings, the mini- conglomerate with interests ranging from locks to Polyfilla, is set to heal the wounds of losing three contested takeover bids by making a big but agreed acquisition.

Williams, whose pounds 770m bid for Racal Electronics failed last Christmas, is understood to be lining up a 'major deal in the States', according to banking sources.

The latest speculation comes hard on the heals of fresh talk in the City last week that Williams was interested in buying Thorn EMI's loss-making security business, which turns over pounds 250m annually.

Exactly what Williams might buy in the US is not clear, although it is thought that the deal may involve buying a subsidiary of an American corporation.

With Nigel Rudd, chairman, and Brian McGowan, chief executive, on holiday, a spokesman for Williams said: 'We don't comment on market rumours.'

'It is quite conceivable,' said Andrew Mitchell at Smith New Court. 'Williams' natural preference would be to do somewthing in the UK, but a US acquisition is not something you can discount.'

Nearly 45 per cent of Williams' billion pounds of sales last year were generated in North America.

The deal may be used to crown Williams' half-year results early next month, which are expected to show profits dipping from pounds 76.5m to pounds 72.5m before tax, and a maintained interim dividend of 5p.

It is thought that any deal would probably have to involve an issue of new shares. The company's shares have fallen nearly 38 per cent from a peak of 379p to a low earlier this month of 236p in the past year.

While analysts believe that Williams will benefit strongly from a recovery, they also think that the company has considerable opportunity to grow through purchases of brand names.

Williams' collection of brands includes Yale and Valor, Polycell, Rawlplug, Swish, and Cuprinol.

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