ABB finalises asbestos claims

The Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB said on Saturday that its 1.43 billion dollar settlement of asbestos claims was now finalised, marking the likely end of a costly 16 year legal battle.

ABB said in a statement that no appeals were filed in a US District Court against revised bankruptcy plans for its targeted US subsidiary, Combustion Engineering, by an end March deadline, “which means the plan is now final”.

The final settlement approved by the court in Wilmington, Delaware, under the plan last month, will protect ABB and its subsidiaries from more asbestos claims.

“This is a milestone in the history of ABB,” said ABB president and chief executive Fred Kindle.

Combustion Engineering built industrial boilers insulated with asbestos, which can cause long-term damage to the lungs, including cancer.

When it took over the US company in 1990, ABB inherited lawsuits from thousands of employees who were in direct contact with asbestos.

The growing wave of claims almost helped drive the global engineering group to ruin a few years ago.

“We are very glad to have a resolution of this final issue, which removes significant uncertainty that has harmed ABB over the years,” Kindle said.

A smaller number of asbestos claims against another ABB subsidiary, Lummus, are still pending.

A settlement there was accepted by 96 percent of claimants in September 2005 and was likely to be resolved “in the very near future”, according to the engineering group.

Combustion Engineering had settled about 438,000 claims since 1990, many without payment, for an amount totalling 1.1 billion dollars.

Including legal fees, the final package dealing with a subsequent collective lawsuit is expected to cost ABB about 2.0 billion dollars.

Claimants will receive payments from a settlement trust.