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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
GKN confirms Westland sale talks
Lynx helicopter
Westland makes Apache and Lynx helicopters
Engineering group GKN has confirmed it is in talks to sell its stake in helicopter-maker AgustaWestland to its Italian joint-venture partner.

Chairman Sir David Lees said the company was negotiating with Finmeccanica, which already owns 50%, to sell its half of the business.

The sale of the business, which includes Yeovil-based Westland, could fetch more than 800m.

"A further announcement will be made when appropriate," Sir David said.

His comments came in a statement to shareholders at GKN's annual general meeting.

Finmeccanica is due to hold its annual general meeting next week and there was speculation on Thursday that a further announcement could be made then.

Changing fortunes

Westland and Agusta merged in 2000, creating a company with an order book totalling 5.33bn.

The Westland factory in Yeovil, which employs more than 4,000 people, makes Lynx and Apache Helicopters.

In 2002, Westland's Weston-super-Mare plant closed, with the loss of 350 jobs

In June last year, the company's fortunes turned around with Westland Helicopters landing a contract with the Japanese Defence Agency worth more than 300m.

Earlier this week Derek Simpson, the general secretary of Amicus, visited the Yeovil site and stressed the future of the company depended on continued orders from the UK Government.

"Westland is exactly the kind of high tech and high skilled employer that we need to retain in the UK," he said.


SEE ALSO:
Union boss visits helicopter firm
18 May 04  |  Somerset
Helicopter firm may be bought out
18 May 04  |  Somerset
Helicopter workers go on strike
29 Oct 03  |  Somerset
Westland wins Japanese deal
11 Jun 03  |  Somerset


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