A FAMILY-owned engineering firm in Banbury has been snapped up by a US corporation in a £56m deal.

Norbar Torque Tools has been acquired by Snap-On Inc, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has 12,000 workers.

Norbar bosses pledged the Wildmere Road company, which employs 300, will continue as before.

It took on four staff at the beginning of this month and is recruiting more.

Managing director Neill Brodey, whose grandfather started the company in 1943 to supply wrenches for use on Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster aeroplane engines during the Second World War, said: “There are no planned changes to the business.

“Snap-On bought us because they like us and they like what we do.”

A third of Norbar’s sales of torque tools, used for tightening nuts and bolts in aerospace, automotive industries, come from EU countries.

Before last June’s EU referendum, Mr Brodey and his fellow board members wrote to employees urging them to vote Remain.

Although Mr Brodey said Brexit was not behind the decision to sell, he said it ‘weighed on our minds’.

He explained: “The issue with Brexit is that whatever happens it will be harder to do business with customers in mainland Europe.”

“We campaigned fiercely to remain.

“Having lost that battle, we looked at our strategy and saw it is going to cost our customers 10 per cent more to do business with us and they won’t like it.”

Norbar has subsidiaries in India and Singapore plus joint ventures in USA and China and has twice received the Queen’s Award for International Trade.

It sees the deal with Snap-On as an opportunity to boost sales in markets outside the EU.

The two firms have a long-running relationship, which began when Norbar founder William ‘Bill’ Brodey became the UK distributor for Snap-On tools in the 1940s.

Mr Brodey said: “Snap-On are an amazing company we have done business with for many years – we are a supplier of theirs and they are well known and respected.

“This deal offers us the opportunity to grow, especially in the US, so reduces risk.”

According to accounts filed at Companies House, Norbar Torque Tools’ turnover was £25.3m for the year ended December 31, 2016.

Profits before tax were £103,000, up from £812,000 the previous year.

Mr Brodey said he planned to stay on as managing director ‘indefinitely’.

He added: “Norbar is an international business which sells in more than 100 countries and we export 78 per cent of what we make.

“So in that sense, it’s not so much a US company buying a British firm, as one international company buying another.”