City firms snub Norton comeback

British financiers have shunned an ambitious US-led project to revive Norton motorcycle manufacturing in the UK. Plans to raise funds for the project on the US Nasdaq market have met with little support from potential British backers. A Wall Street underwriter for the share issue said he was surprised at the lack of interest in […]

British financiers have shunned an ambitious US-led project to revive Norton motorcycle manufacturing in the UK.

Plans to raise funds for the project on the US Nasdaq market have met with little support from potential British backers.

A Wall Street underwriter for the share issue said he was surprised at the lack of interest in the project from the UK’s financial institutions.

‘I don’t understand why the British have not got behind it,’ said Hugh Deane, underwriter at Dirks & Co, New York. ‘Norton is the last British motorcycling icon.’

So far, the biggest single funding source ($9m) for the project has come from the US and Canadian owners of Norton Motors International. Further investment has come from the British engineer designing the bikes, Al Melling, and more than a dozen UK suppliers linked with the project.

Deane suggested the UK response had been cool because many of London’s financial institutions are in overseas ownership. ‘They don’t regard Norton as a national necessity,’ he said.

The Nasdaq share placing, scheduled for the end of November, is planned to raise $18m (£11m). If the placing fails, private investors will be sought.

The majority of the proceeds will be used to fit out a new production facility in the UK for Norton’s range of high-performance, high-price bikes.

Production will be ramped up to 2,500 bikes per year by the end of 2000, with more than 70% planned for export.

After a series of delays during the development phase, initial production is expected to start by the end of the first quarter of 1999.

‘Almost all the production tooling is done,’ said Deane. ‘The engine testing is done. I don’t think too much else can go wrong.’