(Bloomberg) -- France’s Saint-Gobain has agreed to sell one of the companies implicated in London’s fatal Grenfell Tower fire six years ago.
The Paris-listed building materials group will sell its majority stake in Celotex to Soprema, a company based in the English county of Essex, according to a stock exchange filing. Celotex made insulation used on Grenfell — called RS5000 — which was found to have fueled the June 14, 2017 blaze that killed 72 people.
“This sale will not affect Saint-Gobain’s commitment to the Grenfell inquiry or any inquiries by the Metropolitan Police,” a spokeswoman for Saint-Gobain said by phone. The relevant legal entity dealing with civil lawsuits will remain within Saint-Gobain, she added. Soprema didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Celotex’s assets will be transferred to a new standalone company, which will be 75% owned by Soprema, with Saint-Gobain keeping a 25% minority stake “for the time needed to ensure a smooth transition,” Saint-Gobain added in the statement. It did not disclose the sale price.
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Then-Prime Minister Theresa May launched a public inquiry into the Grenfell fire to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the event.
The first phase of the inquiry concluded in December 2018, with findings published the following October. The inquiry has finished hearings and is preparing the final report for Phase 2. This will examine the causes of the chain of events, including how the apartment building came to be in a condition that allowed the fire to spread.
The blaze was ignited by a faulty refrigerator on the fourth floor, and quickly spread throughout the building due to Celotex’s flammable RS5000 cladding. Within half an hour, the flames had reached the roof and all four sides. As the building burned, residents were told to stay put, in line with the policy that presupposed that fires would be contained within single flats.
More than two and a half hours after it started, the control room decided to revoke the policy and advise residents to leave the tower, according to key timings set out by the inquiry’s first phase.
A new regulatory framework was recommended after the fire for higher-risk residential buildings over 30 meters (about 100 feet), setting out more rigorous and demanding responsibilities for building owners, as well as stricter regulations overseeing building standards.
(Updates with details of fire and inquiry from fourth paragraph.)
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