BL’s GOAL IS STILL PRIVATISATION
By David Simpson, Business Correspondent
Privatisation is to remain the ultimate goal for BL, the state motor corporations new chairman, Mr Graham Day, told MP’s yesterday, but any disposal of the group would not be at the expense of good industrial or financial practice. Mr Day, inheriting the chairmanship of BL in the wake of the Ford and General Motors fiascos, made no bones about the severity of the task facing him in correcting losses at Leyland Trucks in particular, which he said could involve closures, mergers or some of each. He also told the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee of plans to shake up the BL board.
Both his executive directors, Mr Ray Horrocks who runs Austin Rover and Mr David Andrews, currently on extended secondment after his abortive management buy-out for Land Rover, could be leaving soon, Mr Day intimated. In addition, he was looking for new non-executive directors.
The immediate priority for BL, said Mr Day, was the financial health of the business. Mr Day, who acquired a reputation for being hard headed in his previous role at British Shipbuilders, stated his readiness to talk to any other truck or motor manufacturer about rationalisations within the industry, but assured the MP’s that he was not currently involved in merger negotiation other than over the impending sale of Leyland Bus.
Mr Day’s repeated return to the over capacity in the European motor industry during his questioning by the MP’s raises the possibility of further rationalisations or cutbacks at the Austin Rover volume car business.
BL executives yesterday told the MP’s that despite improved overseas sales, Austin Rover’s financial position had deteriored in the first quarter because of its failure to hold or improve further the 18 per cent domestic market share established over the past two years.