A German magazine bravely swallowed its pride to publish a listing of the 500 best-run quoted companies in Europe: five of the top 10 were British, while Germany scraped in with only one - in 10th place. Hashi Syedain reports.
Industry and commerce
Rank Company Country Sector
1 Glaxo UK Chemicals and life sciences
2 Reuters Holdings UK Media
3 Benetton Italy Manufacturing and engineering
4 Williams Holdings UK Manufacturing and engineering
5 Adia Switz Service
6 Trelleborg Sweden Diversified holdings
7 LVMH France Food and retail
8 Cable and Wireless UK Technology and telecoms
9 BET UK Diversified holdings
10 Ford-Werke Germany Automotive
Source: Manager Magazin.
It is not often that German managers find themselves praising their British counterparts. But there was a lot of swallowing of pride going on when German business magazine Manager published a listing of the 500 best-run quoted companies in Europe. Five of the top 10 were British, with Glaxo and Reuters coming first and second respectively. Germany itself made its first appearance only in 10th place, with car manufacturer Ford - and even then it had to share the glory with its American parent company.
The Manager table took the 500 biggest quoted companies and judged them according to profitability, security (capital and liquidity ratios) and growth, all over a five-year period. A special model was drawn up by a team from Kiel, which produced a total score for each company. The three criteria were weighted to give greatest emphasis to profitability, over the five years, to give increasing importance to more recent results.
Breaking the companies into sectors revealed more surprises (and British successes). Five of the top 10 in mechanical engineering were British, with TI Group, Glynwed and APV Baker heading the league. Banking, on the other hand, was dominated by Spain, which took the top three positions. Here the UK managed just one entry with TSB in fourth place. There were fewer surprises in retailing, with our nation of shopkeepers ringing up eight of the top 10 (although first place was snatched by the French giant Darty and Fils). And no surprises at all in the car sector: Germany's honour was restored at last with five of the top 10 - and, needless to say, the UK did not figure at all.
But how is it that British companies have done so well overall (50 of the top 100, against France and Germany's 11 each, for example)? The main reason, according to management consultant Roland Berger, is the British emphasis on profitability and making capital work. German managers, by contrast, are more concerned with turnover and market share.
But though the findings are good news for UK companies, Evan Davies of the London Business School put the British success in perspective. He told Manager: "We may have 50 very successful companies, but the Germans have 2,000 fairly successful ones." Looking at the two economies, there are no prizes for guessing which is better.