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Friday, 24 March, 2000, 15:57 GMT
Courtaulds bows to 150m takeover
Wonderbra models
Sara Lee already owns the Wonderbra brand
Courtaulds Textiles - owner of the Gossard and Berlei bra brands - has finally agreed to a takeover offer from Sara Lee.

The company employs approximately 1.640 people at factories in Northern Ireland.

It has plants in Portadown, Limavady and Lurgan. The makers of Gossard bras closed their operations in Cookstown and Irvinestown in 1998.

Sara Lee, the US food and consumer products group, offered 145p per share, which values Courtaulds at 150m ($238m).

Its original offer last month of 100p per share had been dismissed by Courtaulds as far too low.

"The board of Courtaulds believes that this revised offer from Sara Lee will deliver fair value to our shareholders," said chairman John Eccles.

'Exciting opportunities'

The company's shares - which had performed poorly until Sara Lee's original approach - jumped 14p to 142.2p on the announcement.

Sara Lee's chairman and chief executive, John Bryan, commented: "The acquisition will strengthen our European presence and give us access to a range of exciting market opportunities."

Berlei model
The Berlei brand has been around for nearly 100 years
Sara Lee's brands include Douwe Egberts, Kiwi, Champion, Playtex and Wonderbra.

The company employs 138,000 people worldwide and has annual revenues of $20bn.

The takeover of Courtaulds has been an acrimonious affair. Sara Lee's original hostile bid was dismissed as opportunistic and Courtaulds hit back with a plan to sell off non-core businesses and buy back shares.

The company has suffered in recent years, along with the rest of the UK textiles sector.

The biggest supplier to Marks & Spencer, it split from the rest of the Courtaulds chemicals and industrial business in the 1980s, but has since struggled to ward off the threat of cheaper foreign imports.

Last week it announced a restructuring of some of its factories, putting 500 jobs at risk.

'Bra Wars'

The deal with Sara Lee brings together some of the biggest names in women's underwear - although analysts believe there might be objections from regulators.

Wonderbra and Gossard clashed last year in a publicity dispute about which bra produced the better cleavage.

But behind the "Bra Wars" headlines lies a serious business.

The market increased by 42% between 1992 and 1997, and in the UK, women spend about 520m on bras.

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See also:

14 Mar 00 | Business
Hundreds of textiles jobs at risk
14 Feb 00 | Business
US giant bids for Courtaulds
05 Dec 99 | Business
Textiles in decline
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