Williams sells engineering arm: MBO for pounds 40.3m as conglomerate cuts back to its core

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The Independent Online
WILLIAMS Holdings yesterday took a further step in its conversion from acquisitive conglomerate to industrial holding company by selling its engineering arm to management for pounds 40.3m, writes Heather Connon.

The group signalled in September that it intended to sell its engineering and electronics divisions to concentrate on the three core businesses - building products, fire protection and security - where it is among the world's leaders.

Nigel Rudd, chairman, said the sale 'demonstrates where Williams is going. We believe that, for a company of Williams' size, we have to have world businesses which we can add to'.

The management of the engineering division - to be renamed Cortworth - is buying six companies with products ranging from transmission systems to controls and switching devices. Williams will receive pounds 25.3m in cash and pounds 15m in deep discount loan notes, in which interest at 15 per cent will be rolled up for five years. Further consideration - which could be equal to a quarter of the company - may be payable, depending on Cortworth's performance.

The sale does not include Fairey Engineering, which depends on defence orders and was thought too cyclical for a buyout. It has been suffering in the recession but a sale is probable eventually. The electronics division is also likely to be sold, though the timing will depend on recovery in the German car market.

The engineering businesses made a pounds 4.6m profit, on pounds 46m turnover, in the 11 months to November. The price is above book value but the group will have to write back goodwill and that will create a pounds 17m exceptional loss. The sale is likely to dilute earnings marginally in 1994 and Williams shares fell 4p to 351p.

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