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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK

Business: The Company File

AA members vote on sell-off

Eligible members could get a £240 windfall

Millions of Automobile Association members started receiving voting packs on Monday in the first step towards selling off the motoring organisation.

The gas supplier Centrica has made an offer of £1.1bn, which the AA Committee is recommending.

Mary Gahan: Not everyone is convinced by the deal
Nearly half of the AA's 9.5m members are eligible to vote. If the offer gets a two-thirds majority, they will be in line for windfall payments of £240 each.

"This sale is the most important event in the AA's history," said its chairman, Sir Brian Shaw.

"We are convinced that, as part of Centrica, a great British company which is committed to delivering service of the highest quality, our organisation will have the backing to provide the finest roadside service."

[ image: Centrica's portfolio includes the Goldfish credit card]
Centrica's portfolio includes the Goldfish credit card
Centrica, which supplies gas to 15.2m customers, also offers electricity, the Goldfish credit card, home insurance, plumbing, air conditioning and mobile phones.

The company has committed itself to maintaining and improving the AA's services, and has also said that the AA will retain its role as an independent voice for motorists.

An AA spokesman said: "Members will not see an awful lot of difference after the sale, except better services. We have got to keep up with the competition and this is the only way forward.

Colin Skeen, Managing Director of AA Member Services: This deal will safeguard services
"The people that might vote against are the ones that like the AA in its old, traditional role as a mutual organisation. We expect most people to vote in favour."

The AA has had to make job cuts over the past year, and in June it posted annual losses of £21.7m. Its main rival, the RAC, was sold to vehicle leasing group Lex Service for £437m in April.

AA members must send their forms back by 8 September. A special general meeting will be held eight days later to announce the result.

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