Smiths gives up in aerospace

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Another British engineering name seems to be giving up: Smiths Group is selling its aerospace business to GE for £2.4bn and returning most of the proceeds to shareholders. It is also putting its detection and security business into a 64:36 joint venture with GE. Smiths says it is getting out of aerospace because the risks have become too great and it can no longer afford the necessary investment. I suspect this is because nobody would back this management team on acceptable terms. We’ll check that out today, and ask what is left of this business and where it goes now. For prescient background on the group, read James Boxell’s analysis of last February or his piece from March.

Countrywide has adjourned the court meeting and shareholders’ meeting due today to vote on the takeover bid from 3i. The company says this is at 3i’s request, which wants to hold further meetings with Countrywide’s large (and restive) shareholders. Our reporters who were in the room, waiting for the meeting to start, reckon 3i asked for a postponement because it knew it was going to lose the vote. But what now? The terms of the offer makes it hard for 3i to raise it.

With the Baker Report into BP’s safety record due out tomorrow, and likely to be damning, we have more to do there today.

Eurotunnel has taken a step closer to implementing its controversial financial restructuring after the Paris commercial court this morning rejected creditors’ objections to the proposals. The only remaining major hurdle is for the company to persuade holders of 60 per cent of the Franco-British company’s shares to surrender their holdings to be converted into shares in a new, entirely French Groupe Eurotunnel. But since nearly all the company’s shares are held by small private investors who often do not participate in corporate votes, that could still represent a significant challenge.

We’ll have more today on the interview we ran in today’s paper with Richard Ward, chief executive of Lloyd’s. Julian James, director of worldwide markets is leaving Lloyd’s to join Lockton International.

In addition to all this interesting news, my morning has been further brightened by the delivery of my new “Enjoy Capitalism” mugs from johngaltgifts.com. I bought them as a gift for my colleagues when I was researching the huge popularity of Ayn Rand’s dreadful book, Atlas Shrugged. My critical piece the weekend before last on that topic has generated much anger among Rand devotees in our letters page, on this blog and in online discussion groups. There will be others speaking up in defence of Altas Shrugged in the paper tomorrow. Have your say.

Rumour of the day: Halfords shares are up – Neil Hume on our markets desk says there is talk that Autobacs Seven, a Japanese company with a small stake, is thinking of bidding for it.

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