UK Government to question Vickers sale

Officials are set to question Rolls-Royce about its restructuring plans amid speculation that it will mean 2000 job losses by 2003.

The UK government is to question British aero-engine company Rolls-Royce about its restructuring plans and will seek to minimise job losses.

Rolls-Royce said last week that it was selling most of its Vickers Turbine components unit to Royal Bank Private Equity for £74m, in order to focus on its core business.

The sold businesses supply precision-engineering products and services to the automotive, aerospace and industrial turbine industries. “This agreement offers the best future for Vickers Turbine Components and enables Rolls-Royce to increase its focus on its core business,” said Rolls-Royce finance director Paul Heiden in a statement at the time.

Labour MP Jim Cunningham, who represents the Midlands seat of Coventry South, told parliament that the deal could lead to 2,000 job losses by 2003, Reuters reports.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “The Department of Trade and Industry is in close contact with them about what exactly is planned. They have yet to clarify the position but we will do everything we possibly can to safeguard the jobs of people in his constituency.”

The government intervened in another private equity deal last week when it said that the £2.3bn Interbrew takeover of the brewing interests of Bass, the UK hotels and leisure company was not in the public interest. has been told by the UK government that it must sell the pubs to an approved bidder. Interbrew must now sell the brewing interests to a buyer approved by the director general of fair trading. Interbrew also bought UK leisure group Whitbread’s beer business in June last year.