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Monday, April 12, 1999 Published at 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK

Business: The Company File

Ford's Kwik-Fit fix

Kwik-Fit: Leading car repair specialist in the UK

The Ford Motor company is buying the leading car repair firm Kwik-Fit.

Ford is paying just over a billion pounds for what is Europe's largest independent fast-fit repair chain with 1,900 outlets.

Entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer, who founded Kwik-Fit in 1971, will stay on and is to assume a key role within the Ford Motor company once the deal is finalised.

[ image:  ]
Sir Tom admitted to being emotional at the prospect of selling up and said he felt "like the father of the bride" prior to giving his daughter away.

"This (deal) is like a wedding and Kwik-Fit is being married to a fantastic husband in the organisation of the Ford Motor Company which is known and respected throughout the world," he said.

Sir Tom Farmer: "The opportunities are tremendous"
The offer values Kwik-Fit at 560p a share and represents a premium of about 33% on the UK company's stock price at the close on Friday.

Rich pickings

Sir Tom is set to pocket £75m from the sale of his 8% stake in the company, adding to his already-considerable wealth. The Sunday Times Rich List on Sunday ranked him as Britain's 315th richest man.

Sir Tom said: "It has been our aim to provide the motorist with services from the showroom to the scrap yard.

"Not only does this development take us a big step closer to achieving this, but it also provides us with a tremendous opportunity to complement Ford's global strategy and expand the Kwik-Fit brand as widely as possible."

Successful customer formula

Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Jacques Nasser said the acquisition of the fast-fit repair chain "is an important step towards Ford's goal to become the world's leading consumer company that provides automotive products and services through world class brands".

[ image: Kwik-Fit has become a household name]
Kwik-Fit has become a household name
He said that Kwik-Fit was an outstanding company, that had created a successful customer formula.

Following the announcement of the bid, shares in Kwik-Fit rose 121.5p, up 29%, in pre-market trading to 543p with analysts expecting the shares to finish the day just below the 560p takeover price.

Chairman of Ford UK, Ian McAllister: "A very effective operation"
Kwik-Fit will continue to operate as a separate company, maintaining its headquarters in Edinburgh.

Existing employment rights of the company's 9,500 staff are to be guaranteed, while Mr Farmer and his management team will continue to develop the business after the acquisition, the companies said.

Broaden its activities

Ford said the operation will allow its motor dealers to build closer relations with customers in after sales service.

It will also enable Kwik-Fit to accelerate its European expansion plans. Kwik-Fit already has outlets in seven European countries. In the UK and Ireland it has 644 specialist tyre, exhaust and brake fitting centres, while it also runs a motor insurance operation.

BBC Scotland's David Calder reports on the sale of Kwik Fit
Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff University Business School, said the move was in line with Ford's aim to broaden its activities beyond merely making and selling cars.

He said: "Their aim is to be a complete consumer service provider."

This has been demonstrated by the recent increase in ownership of car dealerships and the long term interest in financial services for vehicle purchasers, he said.

Four to six weeks to complete

It is unlikely there will be special offers at Kwik-Fit centres for Ford customers, because of the risk of losing the business of non Ford owners.

Other benefits will be that Ford can give Kwik-Fit greater buying power for suppliers. It will also bring back to Ford the repair business which its own dealerships have lost to Kwik-Fit in recent years, he said.

A Ford spokesman said Kwik-Fit is to operate alongside Ford's existing servicing company, Rapid-Fit, which operates from around 400 UK dealerships, almost exclusively servicing Ford cars.

No redundancies are anticipated at the Rapid-Fit operation, he said. It was expected that the takeover would take four to six weeks to complete, and the company is not anticipating any concerns from competition regulators, the spokesman added.

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