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Vickers OKs Rolls-Royce Sale to BMW

April 29, 1998

LONDON (AP) _ Vickers PLC, parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Co., withstood the wrath of patriotic shareholders today over the planned sale of the luxury car maker to Germany’s BMW for $567 million.

At Vickers’ annual meeting, held hours after the company confirmed it would make the sale, some investors voiced disappointment that one of the most famous of British brands was falling into foreign hands.

Chairman Sir Colin Chandler fended off questions and said the deal ensured investment in future luxury car models and job security.

He said shareholders would receive a slice of the proceeds of the sale and that the money left over would be invested in Vickers’ other businesses.

``There has been a lot of anger,″ said Michael Shrimpton, who is leading a rival bid by a team of British enthusiasts and private investors. ``We will study the deal by BMW and hope to have a higher bid on the table before shareholders meet again to approve the sale to BMW″ in early June.

Retired engineer Ralph Humphreys, another shareholder, said, ``We’ve been promised many times that the business would not be sold to a foreign buyer. I will do all that I can with my tiny shareholding to stop that.″

Volkswagen, which is trying to woo Rolls-Royce away from Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, has been hoping Vickers shareholders will reject BMW’s cash offer in favor of a reportedly higher VW bid.

Vickers said it had reached full agreement on the terms of the sale and had entered into a contract with BMW. In March, Vickers said it had accepted the bid from Munich-based BMW _ which already supplies Vickers with engines for the latest Rolls-Royce models.

In Wolfsburg, Germany, Volkswagen spokesman Kurt Rippholz said the news had not come as a surprise but he would make no further comment. But Dow Jones Newswires quoted an unidentified source as saying VW would launch a rival bid.

Vickers said it would create a new holding company for its continuing businesses and return some proceeds of the sale to shareholders. Under the plan, Vickers shareholders are to exchange each existing share for one share in the new holding company, plus 92 cents.