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Aukett performs Europe U-turn with Italian sale

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Aukett has announced a radical shake-up of its interests in Italy - a move that has seen it sell the vast majority of its investment in the country.

The decision flies in the face of comments made earlier this year, when a group of shareholders took over the firm vowing to refocus its European profile (AJ 1.4.04).

The company - which is now headed up by Spaniard Jose Luis Ripoll - will dispose of 49 per cent of the 50 per cent it controls in its Italian joint venture company Aukett + Garretti SRL.

Ripoll has vowed, however, that the sale, which was worth £148,000 in hard cash, will not stop Aukett attempting to pick up work in the country.

On completion of the deal last week, Aukett's share of the joint venture's net assets was worth £44,000, while its most recent share of profits generated in the period from 1 October 2003 was just £11,500.

But Ripoll insisted that the sale would not represent a decision to rein in the company's wider European interests. 'We are excited to be entering a new phase in our relationship with our Italian partner that will enable us to continue operating effectively in Italy with reduced risk to the core UK business, ' he said.

He also added that Aukett and what remained of the joint venture have already signed a fresh agreement of cooperation on a 'project-by-project basis'.

Investors in the company are likely to be surprised by the move following the shareholder revolt, when Ripoll, backed by former bosses Andrew Lett and Michael Aukett, took over the company.

At the time, Ripoll argued that the company needed to redouble its commitment to its European satellite offices rather than pulling away from the continent under the existing leadership.

Aukett is also expected to complete merger talks with Fitzroy Robinson imminently (AJ 2.12.04).

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