American billionaire Warren Buffett has bought a British chilled drinks equipment supplier for £690 million.
FTSE 100 engineering group IMI said it has agreed to sell its beverage dispense and merchandising divisions for $1.1 billion to Marmon Group, which is owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company.
Following the deal, the news that some £620m will be returned to IMI’s investors sent shares higher. The beverage division makes cooling, mixing and dispensing systems, supplying chains such as McDonalds with soft drinks equipment.
The merchandising arm spans customer research and analysis, and also supplies retailers with product displays.
Together, they employ about 3,200 staff worldwide, including about 430 in the UK.
The dispensing arm has operations at Brighouse in West Yorkshire and Abingdon in Oxfordshire under the IMI Cornelius name, while the merchandising division includes a site at Loughborough called Artform International.
IMI put its merchandising division on the block in March and yesterday revealed it will be sold alongside the dispensing arm to tighten the engineer’s focus on “sweetspot” industrial markets, such as supplying air conditioning systems and valves for the oil and gas industry.
The drinks dispensing business has been hit by companies delaying spending on new equipment, and IMI said its revenues in the three months to 30 September were down 8 per cent year on year.
IMI chief executive Martin Lamb said the sale was a “major step” for the engineer.
He said: “It positions IMI as a highly-differentiated, market-leading flow control business focused entirely on industrial end markets.”