It is appropriate that a company concerned with defence equipment should keep its head when all around are inclined to lose theirs. Gordon Page, chief executive of FR Group, did just that. Shareholders should give him, his management and staff a pat on the back at the June AGM.
While other aerospace companies have suffered from defence cutbacks, FR Group has reported increased sales. Pre-tax profits are up from £21.4 million to £23.3 million in 1992, and the dividends paid to shareholders have increased by 8%.
'We didn't rush out of defence when people advised us to,' Page explained. He thought he knew something the pundits didn't: that his company could build upon healthy niche activities. Indeed, some military cutbacks have benefited his company. For example, with fewer new aircraft, air forces want to make the most of their existing planes and keep them in the air for as long as possible. FR helps them to do this with its sophisticated air-to-air fuelling systems. Also, as the world still has its trouble spots, the demand for FR's unmanned surveillance systems has grown and, unlike other companies, the group has continued spending on hi-tech equipment during the recession. 'It's still a fun business,' says Page. An uncommon comment from a chief executives these days.