Troubled Laidlaw sells Manchu Wok

Laidlaw is selling its Manchu Wok chain of Chinese fast food restaurants to a group of investors that includes senior management.

The beleaguered transportation company is eager to raise cash, but did not say how much it is getting for the chain. The group of investors is led by Ken Fowler Enterprises and includes the senior management of Manchu Wok. Fowler Enterprises is a holding company of food services, real estate, retail and manufacturing businesses.

Manchu Wok is the largest chain of Chinese fast food restaurants in Canada and the second largest in North America. The deal requires landlord and other approvals before it is completed by later this summer or early fall.

In trading in Toronto, Laidlaw dropped three cents to close at 55 cents.

Laidlaw has been losing increasing amounts of money. In the quarter ended May, it lost $542.5 million US, compared with a loss of $227.2 million in the same quarter of 1999. That brought the loss for the first nine months of its fiscal year to $1.95 billion US.

Problems with the Safety-Kleen waste management unit have slashed Laidlaw's share price. Laidlaw owns 44 per cent of the business. Safety-Kleen has been hit by an accounting scandal and is being investigated by regulators.

Laidlaw is now losing revenue in the healthy transportation side of its business because of trouble at its ambulance and waste management operations. It has lost contracts because of uncertainty about the company's future.