Williams in 267m pounds cash call

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WILLIAMS Holdings yesterday launched a pounds 267m rights issue to restore its balance sheet to health and announced the pounds 64m acquisition of two wood-care and tile-adhesive businesses from Solvay, the French chemicals group.

The one-for-seven rights issue at 330p a share will fund past and future acquisitions but is not expected to dilute earnings this year, according to Roger Carr, group managing director.

Gearing will be cut to 7 per cent from around 72 per cent. Without the rights issue, gearing would have risen to about 120 per cent, a level Mr Carr said would have been imprudent. The latest acquisition comes after pounds 205m was paid for nine businesses since January 1993.

Mr Carr said the new acquisition fitted Williams' policy of developing businesses that had significant shares in their markets. The two businesses have a turnover of pounds 90m.

Williams shares yesterday fell 9p to 379p.