The week in business

Strong sales by its aerospace division saw UK engineering group GKN post a trading profit increase of 42 per cent to £54m.

GKN flies high with aerospace sales, but automotive market is running in low gear


Strong sales by its aerospace division saw UK engineering group GKN post a trading profit increase of 42 per cent to £54m. With more than a third of revenue coming from the division, the bumper 2005 performance was driven by strong defence sales, engineering contract work on new programmes, growth in the civil aircraft market and the start of production on earlier contract wins. GKN chief executive Kevin Smith said the civil aerospace market remains strong thanks to industry giants Airbus and Boeing receiving orders for 2,000 planes between them. But he warned investors not to expect such a spectacular performance in 2006, when a stagnant automotive market and the cost of plant closures due to restructuring will have an adverse impact.



Dual-Fuel technology goes trucking on to London stock exchange


Clean Air Power, the company behind Dual-Fuel automotive technology, floated on the stock market last week with the proceeds being directed towards product development, test facilities and marketing. More than 1,600 trucks worldwide have been fitted with Dual-Fuel, which enables heavy-duty diesel engines to run on a combination of diesel and natural gas without diminishing performance, according to the firm. It plans to increase its influence in the UK, US and Australia by offering a generic retrofit called Genesis.



Seeing Machines looking at a £1m turnover


Seeing Machines, the vision tracking systems specialist, announced at its AGM that revenue had increased 28 per cent over the previous year to £1m. This was largely due to increased sales of faceLAB — which provides head, gaze and eyelid tracking with applications in driver safety and information awareness systems — and a number of R&D contracts. Seeing Machines claimed demand for products addressing driver fatigue, distraction and inattention is growing, and announced an agreement with Schlumberger to conduct trials of its fatigue product in a number of its trucks next month.



Toyotas go live with NXT sound system


NXT, the flat speaker technology developer, has seen its system deployed in a mass-production vehicle for the first time. The Toyota Estima, launched in January, uses NXT’s SurfaceSound technology to transform the entire inside of the roof into a loudspeaker. This will be followed by the Toyota FJ Cruiser, to be launched this month in the US. In its interim results NXT reported an impressive revenue increase of 42 per cent to £1.73m after shipping 3.7 million speakers during the last six months of 2005, a 72 per cent increase on the same period last year. Within the mobile market, however, consumers’ desire for fashionable and ultra-thin devices has applied pressure to existing NXT technology. The company said that, though the mobile market is viewed as a development opportunity, the timeframe for further products is unclear.



Ford focuses on a £37m profit in Europe


Speaking at the Geneva motor show, Ford of Europe chief executive John Fleming said he is confident three new models — a convertible Focus and new Galaxy and Transit models — will generate growth in a flat European market. The company’s cost-cutting and factory restructuring policy appears to have reaped financial dividends, with a £39m loss in 2004 transformed into a £37m profit in 2005, despite selling 31,000 fewer cars in Europe over the same period. Fleming also said he is looking to emerging markets such as Russia and Turkey to improve productivity.