Williams Holdings buys US lock maker

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The Independent Online
WILLIAMS HOLDINGS, the conglomerate headed by Nigel Rudd, made its first acquisition of the new year yesterday with the purchase of a US architectural hardware business for dollars 80m cash.

It is buying Corbin and Russwin from Black & Decker to bolt on to its existing Yale locks business. Corbin is estimated to have 10 per cent of the US market for locks, door closers and exit devices.

The purchase confirms Williams' new strategy of transforming itself from an acquisitive conglomerate into an industrial products manufacturer concentrating on three divisions - building products, fire prevention and security.

It follows the disposal of the bulk of the group's engineering business to a management buyout team for pounds 40.3m just before Christmas.

Corbin made dollars 3.3m last year on turnover of dollars 78m, but analysts said earnings were depressed by restructuring costs. It normally makes margins of 8-9 per cent, suggesting dollars 7m profits in a full year.

Mr Rudd said he expected to raise Corbin's return on sales to the US building products division's average of about 14 per cent within 18 months. The purchase is not expected to dilute earnings.

He added that he had been trying to buy Corbin for two years as it made a perfect fit with Yale.

'There are not huge amounts of money to be saved through synergy, although there are obvious things we can do such as merge the two head offices,' he said.

He added that Williams' electronics business and its Fairey Engineering division, slated for disposal as part of the new focus on core activities, were not on sale now because decent prices could not be obtained at this point in the cycle.

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