MEMO TO BBC BUSINESS – WHAT ABOUT GKN THEN?
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
29 Jul 14. What is it about engineering, manufacturing, jobs, skills retention, innovation, exports and success that the BBC so dislikes? Why is it that when it comes to business output it so often seems that unless the news is negative or is maybe about bankers bonuses, house prices, job cuts or matters directly related to products and services bought by consumers on the High Street or on-line that unless about food, pharmaceuticals or assembly of cars the BBC all but ignores engineering and real manufacturing? I have no idea why but what I do know is that the huge effort being put in by manufacturing industry small and large to make more of what we consume here at home and to export more of what we produce is deserving of an equal amount of reporting as matters that relate service and retail based businesses plus others that relate directly to the consumer.
I raise the point today because, apart from a tiny half line headline mention that GKN was responsible for the biggest rise on the FTSE 100 in early morning trade today, there was (at the time of writing) absolutely no report or analysis of GKN’s half year results to be found on the BBC website. How appalling that one of Britain’s largest and most successful domestic and international manufacturing companies, a world leader in its field of automotive driveline products, aerospace components, metal powder metallurgy and sintered component products plus land based engineered powered systems, should fail to warrant more than the tiniest of mention today?
Yes, just like Tesco, Sainsbury and William Morrison, GKN is also a member of the FTSE100 just as it used to be a member of the old FT 30 Index. Employing as it does close to 48,000 people in countless dozens of countries across the world apart from the great many employed here in Britain GKN now has annual sales that are probably in excess of £7.5bn.
A company with a very long history and one that can if it so chose trace its origins back to eighteenth century the success of GKN (note that the initials are taken from the three original founding companies that merged in 1902 to form Guest Keen Nettlefold) can be put down not only to how it has continually invested in its people and businesses but that it has continually adapted and changed to meet different requirements and circumstances. There is also a long history of excellent management too and today we see the evidence of that as the company announced a superb set of half year numbers showing a 6% gain to £296m in pre-tax profits to 30th June and an 8% increase in the interim dividend.
Looking at the otherwise excellent BBC Business Live section of the website this morning one can find reams of comment about supermarket sales, mortgage lending, Bitcoin usage in Romania, an increase in insolvency numbers, the Gherkin being put up for sale, bankers ethics, Russian sanctions, UBS probe, first half profits from retailer Next and oil giant BP, reams of comment about the new chairman for the William Morrison retail chain, mention of the Airbus decision to scrap a previously received order for six A380 planes from troubled Japanese airline Skymark, an item on cheese plus one about Boris Johnson seeking to tax cars that use diesel in parts of London by 2020. But, share price apart, at the time of writing this (midday thirty) absolutely nothing about GKN’s superb set of interim results.
I jest not – if we don’t start changing the whole attitude and approach that we place on the value of manufacturing we will in my view regret it. As Greece has all but proved no nation economy can survive by being based solely on services and consumer spending.
Press and print media as a whole still pays a high level of regard for manufacturing and they are good at supporting the hundreds of thousands of small and medium sized enterprises, many of which are manufactu