Focusing is only part of the answer

SHARP FOCUS: Cookson Group’s share price rose 92% last year, despite a fall in profits in July. Since Stephen Howard took over as chief executive in 1997, Cookson has transformed itself from a sprawling conglomerate to a company focused on key markets in electronics and ceramics. It is a world leader in ceramic refractory systems and has a strong position in materials for printed circuit boards. In the course of restructuring it has made over £600m worth of acquisitions and £150m of disposals.

soft focus: Since 1997, Senior has largely focused on one market sector – thin metal tubing for industries such as aerospace. But it has suffered from a declining market, accounting problems at a US subsidiary and a perceived lack of market leadership. One industry watcher said: `The company basically makes tubes. You can’t put technology into tubes, and it has failed to build up any world-leading positions.’