Business Week

Article excerpt

Monday March 22

Canadian group PCS is set to become the third bidder for Midland chemicals group Albright & Wilson. PCS, a potash producer, is already a partner with Albright in the US. Albright has been taking its time responding to the 145p-a-share bid by French group Rhodia - which itself trumped an earlier 130p bid by US group Albemarle.

Railtrack will this week announce it is prepared to spend an extra pounds 10 billion on top of the pounds 17 billion it has already committed to improving the country's network of railways. The pounds 27 billion ten-year package, the largest capital spending programme planned by a British company, includes improving links to Birmingham airport on the London to Coventry line and eliminating key bottlenecks on main lines. It is an attempt to placate the Government and the public as its existing programme has so far failed to cope with an unexpected 30 per cent rise in passenger numbers over the past three years.

Tuesday March 23

Dr Wolfgang Reitzle the "axeman of Longbridge" and now boss of Jaguar - rejects claims that he argued BMW should close the Rover plant. During a visit to Jaguar's Coventry plant, Dr Reitzle, who stormed out of BMW's number two job last month following a boardroom row over Rover's future direction, said: "It is the wrong image to suggest I was pressing to close Longbridge. The plant could lead Rover to a bright future."

Profits slump at engineering group Transtec after a sharp fall in orders from its major automotive customers, including Rover and Ford. Although turnover rises 12 per cent to pounds 390 million, volumes supplied to the car market drops substantially and Transtec is forced to take drastic action. About 600 employees in the automotive division, 14 per cent of the group total, were laid off and the business itself was reorganised at a cost of pounds 2 million. Pre-tax profits drop from pounds 18.9 million to pounds 10.8 million.

TT Group is ready to increase its bid for Hall Engineering, while attempting to upset management plans for a rival buy-out of the Midland-based business. Mr John Newman, TT's executive chairman, opts for an aggressive approach in a statement put out with the group's 1998 figures, saying: "TT Group has been successful in all its previous hostile bids and is eager to maintain this record." TT initially bid pounds 52 million - 97p per share - for Shrewsbury-based Hall, which employs about 1,000 in the West Midlands, largely at its Stadco motor-components operation.

The protest group trying to stop the takeover of the Birmingham Midshires admits defeat. Save Our Building Society, which is in the middle of a High Court battle with the Wolverhampton-based society, drops the case. Sobs launched its action against the society after the Midshires refused to hold a second meeting of members to discuss demutualisation via a takeover by the Halifax. The climbdown comes after the Building Society Commission gave its approval for the takeover of Britain's fifth biggest surviving society, giving an average windfall of pounds 1,259 to one million members.

Wednesday March 24

The cornerstone of a Midland tycoon's business empire crumbles when his windows company goes in to receivership. Management call in the receivers after Mr Robert Mills' pounds 30 million-a-year Regency International, based at Castle Bromwich, ran out of money. After continuing losses, the company collapses with liabilities of pounds 10 million - of which pounds 5.5 million is owned to secured creditors including the banks - putting at risk 300 jobs in Birmingham and 50 others at a site near Glasgow.

Alstom, the heavy engineering group floated off last year by GEC, announces a pounds 6.8 billion merger with Asea Brown Boveri, to create the world's largest manufacturer of power generation equipment. But the deal, aiming for annual costs savings of about pounds 300 million, puts more manufacturing jobs at risk in the West Midlands. …