Williams sells off pounds 360m DIY brands

Williams Holdings, the industrial conglomerate chaired by Sir Nigel Rudd, yesterday cleared the decks for a pounds 500m spending spree after announcing the pounds 360m sale of some of Britain's best-known DIY and building brands. A management group led by Mike Davies, currently head of Williams' building and security products division, is investing "well over pounds 1m" in a buy-out of a package of 15 companies including household names like Rawlplug, the company which invented the eponymous wall plug, to Amdega, builder of Britain's first Victorian conservatory, and including Swish curtain tracks and Smallbone of Devizes, maker of the up-market kitchens.

The intention is that the new company, to be called Newmond, will float in due course, following in the footsteps of earlier Williams disposals including Pendragon, the motor dealer, Cortworth, an engineering group, and the electronics businesses sold earlier this year, which intends to float in due course. As with earlier disposals, Williams is retaining an interest in Newmond through a 26 per cent stake.

The deal, which will throw up a pounds 90m profit for Williams and dilute profits by pounds 8m in a full year, comes after two years of underperformance by the group's shares as conglomerates have fallen out of favour with the market. Sir Nigel denied the group was attempting to lose its conglomerate tag, but the shares bounced 5p to 344.5p yesterday as analysts welcomed the deal as giving more focus to the group.

Williams said the businesses being sold, although mostly market leaders in the UK, did not sit well in the context of its plan to develop global operations in the three areas of fire protection, security and home improvement products. It will wipe out borrowings and leave the acquisitive group with net cash of pounds 40m.

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