Spread to survive

Aalco: orders of optimism

‘I’m optimistic things will improve,’ says Brian McCabe, an account manager with Aalco, the former Amari metals distribution business sold by Glynwed as part of its metals distribution business. ‘Our customers are reporting healthier order books for 1999 2000.’

Aalco is a leading supplier of stainless steel, aluminium and other yellow metals to the engineering and manufacturing sectors. It has two sites in Scotland, in Aberdeen and Glasgow, employing 80 people.

But as McCabe acknowledges, the market is not an easy one. ‘Too many suppliers are chasing the same business,’ he says. ‘Prices are falling and it’s a buyers’ market. Margins have been decimated.’ Prices fell by 15 25% in the last year.

Aalco is also being hit indirectly by the high pound. ‘A lot of our customers export and are losing sales,’ says McCabe.

ABT: defying the downturn

Ian Simpson, partner in ABT machine tools, says it is being hit by the downturn in the oil market, which accounts for about 40% of its sales. ‘The low cost of oil does not help,’ he says, ‘and we foresee no change for some years.’

ABT supplies machine tools to manufacturers and customers in the automotive, aerospace and subcontract businesses. The company’s turnover is about £3 3.5m and it employs 19 workers.

Simpson’s partner, David Ross, is more optimistic. ‘We’ve not felt the downward trend as yet. We’re taking more cost efficient technologies to our customers and adding sales that way.’

Motherwell Bridge: profits on the up

‘We’ve had a number of orders cancelled or postponed but our spread of businesses will enable us to weather the storm,’ marketing Motherwell Bridge executive Gavin McIntosh says.

The company has just announced a 70% rise in interim pre-tax profits to £4.4m on a £118m turnover.

The firm has four divisions mechanical construction, engineering, engineering services and information systems. Engineering is feeling the effects of the downturn in the oil and gas sector and the high pound.

Metalcoat: a safe spread

A spread of customers is helping ease the recession says Tim Rutherford, sales director of Metalcoat, which provides protective coatings to ferrous products.

The Glasgow-based firm supplies seven main markets, including marine, mining, construction and engineering, with 80% of its business in Scotland. It has a £500,000 turnover and employs 16 people.

Newton Holdings: contracts hit

‘Our subcontract business supplies ducting and ventilation systems to the electronics industry and has been hit by the downturn in that sector,’ says Newton Holdings’ group chairman and company secretary David Corson. Newton Holdings, of Ayr, has a £5m turnover. Orders for laser-cutting machines to the oil sector have gone quiet, Corson says. But fabrications are doing well.

Goliath: big name, smaller orders

‘The past few months have been much quieter,’ says Jim McLean, Scottish sales manager for Goliath Threading Tools, a distributor for Birmingham-based Goliath International Tools. The £300,000 turnover parent company makes threads, taps and dies for engineering and manufacturing companies.

‘Customers are buying as required and not holding stock,’ McClean adds. ‘The amounts they order are also greatly reduced.’

Phoenix: cutting staff and prices

‘A lot of people are chasing the same business,’ says a spokesman for sheet metalworker Phoenix Precision. ‘We’ve had to cut costs by trimming prices and laying off staff.’

The Glenrothes-based firm has 55 staff and a turnover of £2.5m.