Chinese group BISLT to acquire 60% stake in Essex vehicle maker ASGB

Simon Hare of ASGB.

Simon Hare of ASGB. - Credit: Archant

The Chinese group BISLT has acquired a majority stake in specialist vehicle company A Smith Great Bentley Ltd (ASGB).

BISLT is the holding company of New Long March, China’s leading specialist coachbuilding company, with which ASGB has already successfully worked in partnership on a number of projects.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval by the Chinese government, will see BISLT acquire a 60% stake in ASGB, which is based at Frating, near Colchester.

ASGB is currently owned by the Hare family. Chief executive Simon Hare will retain a 40% stake and remain in post but all other family members will exit as shareholders upon completion, including Barry Hare who will retire as chairman of ASGB.

The deal will bring £4million of investment into the company, although the full value of the transaction has not been disclosed.

Simon Hare said: “This is great news for ASGB. This deal will give us the resources and capital we require to strengthen our global ‘Smiths’ brand and our Essex factory as well as giving us the means to expand into a number of exciting new markets worldwide.”

Mr Hu, chairman of BISLT said: “ASGB’s reputation is very well-known amongst its target sectors. We are keen to explore opportunities in China and the rest of the world and believe partnering with ASGB will give us the knowledge, experience and strategic focus to deliver innovations to these audiences.”

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ASGB, which was established in 1955, employs more than 100 people on the design and build of specially-equipped vehicles for use in sectors including outside broadcasting, hospitality, healthcare and power generation.

Keith Ferguson, partner at the Ipswich office of accountancy firm BDO, which advised on the deal, said: “We are pleased to be involved in this complex cross-border transaction with a very large purchaser taking a stake in a UK advanced manufacturing company.

“This gives more weight to the interest of overseas buyers, especially from Asia, looking on the UK as the entry point into European operations.”