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Monday, 9 July, 2001, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Aga cooks up Fired Earth takeover
Aga range
Aga kitchen: linking up with Fired Earth
Two of the firms which help recreate the feel of country kitchens in urban and suburban England are to join forces.

Stove maker Aga Foodservice Group has bought upmarket tile-seller Fired Earth, signalling plans to storm international homeware markets.

Aga Foodservice Group has taken over the 55-store Fired Earth chain for 29.5m, providing a platform for expansion both in the UK and abroad, a statement said.

While Aga cookers have long been the toast of the shires, the Birmingham-based firm only opened its first London store in February.

Fired Earth sees the south east of England as its strongest market.

And internationally, while Aga has distribution arrangements in the US and Western European countries such as France and Holland, Fired Earth has bases in Sweden, Norway and Hong Kong.

"The intention is to accelerate both companies' development plans and seek opportunities to invest in the enlarged business both in the UK and overseas," the statement said.

"Aga and Fired Earth are both well-established brands, with comparable customer bases and complementary distribution channels."

Investment return

The purchase comes three years after an investment group led by an arm of insurance giant Prudential bought Fired Earth from shareholders for 20.6m.

Under private ownership, the retailer has opened 18 stores and expanded from its traditional floor tile market into paint and bathroom products.

For Aga, Monday's purchase signals further its move away from its metal and building products heritage, a transformation completed in March with the sale of a pipe systems business and change of name from Glynwed International.

The firm now focuses on its domestic products, including Aga and Rayburn ranges, and bakery equipment fitted, for instance, at Marks & Spencer and Safeway stores.

The Aga cooker was conceived in the 1920s by Dr Gustaf Dalen, a Swedish physicist and Nobel Prize Winner, who had lost his sight in a laboratory explosion.

Aga's strategic shift has received some applause from the City, helping shares in Glynwed/Aga rise from below 170p in October to close at 250p on Friday.

Aga shares closed 1p higher at 251p on Monday.

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