General Electric Company plans to continue to grow via acquisition despite ‘considerable uncertainty in the global economy’, said retiring chairman Lord Prior last week.
‘It is not possible to determine exactly how these developments will unfold and how they will affect countries, let alone individual companies,’ he warned.
‘However, despite the continued strength of sterling and turbulence in a number of our markets around the world, the board believes the group will continue to make satisfactory progress this year.’
Prior said GEC, which had net cash funds of £1.184bn at 31 March, was ‘talking constantly to major companies about acquisitions’. This included discussions with US defence company Northrup Grumman.
Prior added that with consolidation in the European defence industry, defence would increase as a contribution to turnover. Last year defence sales accounted for 41% of turnover.
‘Defence electronics will play an increasingly important part in GEC in the future,’ the chairman said.
After 14 years in the post, Prior made his last appearance as chairman at GEC’s annual shareholder meeting, dealing dismissively with the expected barrage of anti-defence sales questions from the floor. He said the Labour Government’s policy on the export of arms did not differ greatly from that of its predecessors.
Sir Roger Hurn, chairman of Smiths Industries, will take over from Prior later this year.