Page last updated at 14:29 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

VT sells 380m shipbuilding stake

The bow of HMS Daring being loaded onto a barge in Portsmouth
Work on two aircraft carriers will still be done in Portsmouth

A Hampshire-based shipbuilder has signalled the end of its 150-year link with shipbuilding by announcing plans to sell its naval interests.

VT Group, formerly Vosper Thornycroft, wants to dispose of its 45% holding in BVT Surface Fleet naval shipbuilding by July for a minimum of 380m.

The move, backed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), will allow VT to expand its services businesses.

The company is involved with building two new aircraft carriers.

VT, which has operations in Portsmouth, Glasgow, Filton near Bristol and its HQ in Southampton, merged its shipbuilding operations with BAE in a joint venture last year to form BVT.

Under that deal VT had the right to sell its stake to BAE.

Paul Lester, VT chief executive, said: "Our services businesses continue to show good growth and to perform in line with our expectations for the full year."

"Our exit from BVT Surface Fleet later this year will enable us to refocus exclusively on expanding our core engineering based support services offerings."

Workers at Vosper Thorneycroft. Image courtesy of Southampton Oral History Unit
The Vosper Thorneycroft shipyard dominated Woolston for 100 years

BVT employs more than 7,000 people and generates turnover of 1bn a year.

It is involved in the building of two new aircraft carriers for the MoD and six 1bn Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers, of which HMS Daring arrived in her home port for the first time on Wednesday.

VT built the bow and mast sections for the Type 45 programme at Portsmouth with the rest of the work done by BAE at Glasgow.

The company was based in Woolston, Southampton, for more than 100 years before moving its shipyard to Portsmouth in 2003.

VT said its exit from the joint venture would enable it to concentrate on defence, communications and training, which accounts for around 80% of its revenues.

It is understood work on the aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will still be carried out in Portsmouth.

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