SEA CONTAINERS OUTCOME WELCOMED BY ALL PARTIES COMPANY TO SELL FERRIES, BOXES

SEA CONTAINERS OUTCOME WELCOMED BY ALL PARTIES COMPANY TO SELL FERRIES, BOXES

All parties involved in the year-long wrangle for control of Sea Containers Ltd. expressed satisfaction Friday with the decision to sell the group's main ferry and container interests.

The company's future was resolved at a shareholders meeting last Thursday, at which it also reported net income for 1989 of $100.3 million, against $85.2 million in 1988. Revenues rose from $875.3 million to $1.0 billion.Stena AB, the Swedish shipping group that launched the contest for Sea Containers a year ago with a hostile takeover bid, has settled for the latter's Sealink British Ferries vessels and ferry routes across the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

Sea Containers' shareholders also agreed to sell the group's 200,000 dry cargo and tank containers to Tiphook PLC, a British container rental group.

Tiphook's $537 million acquisition will double its size, making it the world's third-largest container owner.

Sea Containers' remaining assets include its refrigerated and other specialized marine containers, ferry services between Britain and the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight and a number of small British ports with adjacent development land.

Although Sea Containers was forced into the sales, James Sherwood, the company's president, said the remaining assets leave the group with "the ability to fund meaningful growth."

The company is using part of the proceeds to buy back 7 million of its own shares. The recapitalization will enhance management's control over the group and leave it less susceptible to another takeover attempt.

Stena is paying about $600 million for the ferries and routes it is acquiring. It will resell them to its ferry subsidiary, Stena Line, which operates mainly in Scandinavia.

Stena Line will repay its parent with three debenture loans totaling about $130 million and another loan of $110 million. The remaining funds will come from Stena Line's own resources.

Pers Johannes, a financial analyst with Svenska Handelsbanken in Stockholm, warned that Stena Line's ability to fund the deal will depend greatly on Sealink's future profitability.

He pointed out, however, that the takeover should be profitable for Stena in the long term, particularly if European laws are changed, as is expected, to phase out duty-free shopping.

Stena derives at least 50 percent of its earnings from duty-free sales, which are significantly less important on English Channel routes.

Stena Line said the acquisition of Sealink would strengthen its foothold in the European Community. "Considerable growth is expected in both demand for transport and tourism during the '90s on account of the integrated EC markets," a company statement said.

Stena plans to upgrade Sealink's operations by employing its proven travel service concept of offering package tours, mini-cruises and floating conferences.

In a related development in New York, Temple Holdings Ltd., the joint venture formed by Stena and Tiphook to take over Sea Containers, announced it had terminated its tender offer to acquire all of the group's outstanding shares. The bid was launched last May.