ULTRAFRAME'S £88 million deal to buy an American glazing giant will catapult the Clitheroe-based conservatory roof manufacturer into a new league.

The acquisition of the Four Seasons Group -- the USA's market leader in pre-fabricated glazed structures -- will create the biggest company of its kind in the world.

Ultraframe, already Europe's leading conservatory system designer and manufacturer, will more than double its turnover.

The Clitheroe company, which employs around 500 people, enjoyed record sales of £81million last year, while its transatlantic target had a turnover of £53.4 million in 2000.

While the deal is subject to approval from Ultraframe shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting on July 11 and from US competition law regulators, chairman Rod Sellers is confident it will be completed before August.

He said: "The acquisition of Four Seasons results from a thorough review of the North American market and is a significant step forward in the fulfilment of our previously-stated strategy to increase our penetration of the United States and Canada.

"Ultraframe's custom roofing systems, combined with Four Seasons' dedicated and experienced franchisees and dealers, will create a powerful driver for business and market growth."

Ultraframe will fianance the deal through existing cash reserves, £21 million debt finance and the issue of new shares worth £14 million. Four Seasons was established in 1978 by Chris and Joe Esposito and has developed a market-leading position in the sale of sunrooms, conservatories, enclosures and skylights. Its products, sold through a network of 300 franchisees and dealers, are typically used to enclose patios, decks, terraces, swimming pools, spas and exercise rooms.

The company also manufacturers sunroom and conservatories and provides larger products for shopping malls, restaurants, libraries, hospitals and offices.

Chris and Joe Esposito and their entire management team will be staying with the new business.

"We are committed to the future of this combination," said Chis Esposito. "We share the view with Ultraframe that the combined group is well-positioned to capitalise on the expanding sunroom and conservatory market."

After more than a decade of unbroken success, Ultraframe issued a profits warning earlier this year, blaming bad weather for a slump in salesa of its conservatory systems. Its results for the six months to March 30 2000 saw pre-tax profits fall from £10.5million to £9.1million.

The Four Seasons deal represents a second chance for Ultraframe to break into the North American market. It set up a Canadian joint venture in 1999 but it generated sales of only £537,000 last year and was officially wound up last week when Ultraframe bought its partners' shares for just Canadian $50.

Ultraframe will now operate as Royal Ultraframe in Canada alongside the Four Seasons Group.

Ultraframe was established in Clitheroe by John Lancaster in 1983. The company enjoyed continued success and was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1996, with many of the firm's employees buying shares in the business.

Mr Lancaster, who is now executive vice chairman, set up a £80 million charitable foundation which has supported projects as varied as an orphanage in South Africa and the appeal to keep the Grand Cinema in Clitheroe.