IMI gains ground

Engineering group IMI continued its progress in its chosen hi-tech markets, driven by a strong performance from its fluid power operations. Dominated by its Norgren division, fluid power boosted its operating profits by almost 50 per cent to £44m in 2004.


IMI’s overall pre-tax profits rose 13 per cent to £155m last year on a turnover of £1.6bn, slightly ahead of the 2003 figure.


The group has spent the past few years focusing on areas where engineering can give it a competitive advantage, spanning advanced valve technology for medical devices, drinks dispensing systems and severe service products for use in the energy industry.


It is also trying to shake off the legacy of its past as a provider of commodity products. This process is now almost complete, and moved a step closer this week when the company said it would listen to offers for its Polypipe building products subsidiary after a number of approaches from interested parties.


IMI is appealing against a 45m Euro fine imposed by the European Commission relating to alleged anti-competitive practices in its copper tubing business, long since sold off but still an unwelcome presence on the company’s balance sheet.


Despite these legacy issues, IMI remains relentlessly upbeat even amid the negative effects of increased raw materials costs and the weak dollar. ‘While there are still some concerns that mainland Europe remains subdued, the underlying momentum of our business is encouraging overall,’ the company told its shareholders, adding that it would continue to acquire companies where appropriate to its chosen areas of speciality.



The company also underlined its commitment to ‘the fast-growing markets of Asia and eastern Europe’ by recruiting highly skilled staff from these areas. It revealed that 25 per cent of its graduate intake in 2004 was of Chinese origin.