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Cash rich Vita looking to buy

By Liz White, UT contributing editorLondon-British Vita plc is looking for opportunities to spend, following the disposal of its last 5.4 million shares in US plastics group Spartech Corp. for £68 million, said chief executive David Campbell. But the flexible foamer is in no rush. “The desire and money is there, but we won’t waste it,” Campbell said, at 1 Mar press briefing in London to announce the Manchester, UK-headquartered group’s financial results for 2003.

Vita is also, “guardedly confident” about the group’s prospects for 2004, following signs of general economic improvement, Campbell added.

The foam, fibres and plastics compounding group is aiming for both organic growth and acquisitions, and is “clear about what businesses to develop,” the Vita chief said. “PU systems are certainly on the list,” and Campbell added TPE compounding and technical foams to the businesses Vita is targeting for growth. In terms of locations, “our preference would be Eastern Europe, North America, and … the Far East,” he said.

The Vita boss added that Vita’s recently approved Hungarian foam plant will definitely be aiming to make “high added-value products in industrial and technical foams,” such as those made at its Crest plant in the UK and Vita’s Caligen Foam unit in Breda, the Netherlands, where the focus is on more speciality materials.”

While total profits for the Vita group in 2003 were down some £11.6 million versus 2002, to £61.5 million, Campbell said this needs to be seen in context: 90 percent of its continuing businesses (without the Spartech contribution)-the industrial and cellular polymers units-saw profits rise seven percent.

“Non-wovens let us down,” Campbell commented. Some of Vita’s problems here, as previously announced, stemmed from accounting errors in its US business, resulting in a charge of £5 million to the 2003 results.

Sales for Vita last year were up 5 percent, or nearly £46 million, to £940 million over 2002. In cellular polymers, sales rose £22 million to £480 million and in industrial polymers they climbed £25 million to reach £366 million.

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