Chow calms storms

Good Times, Bad Times: The Business Personalities Of The Year
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In HIS first year at GKN, C K Chow has managed to calm several storms that threatened to becalm the auto parts-to-military helicopters manufacturer. He's had to cope with a $600m (pounds 375m) suit against its Meineke mufflers unit, fresh competition in its drive-shafts business in Europe and the damaging effect of a strong pound.

The darkest cloud on the horizon is the Asian financial crisis, which could undermine Mr Chow's promise to boost revenue 40 per cent over five years, from pounds 2.86bn last year.

So far, though, all is well in hand. By shrewdly managing the expectations of the City, the Meineke suit has barely blemished GKN's stock price, which rose 19 per cent this year ahead of the 11-per-cent gains of rivals.

Mr Chow, born in Hong Kong and educated at Harvard, is quickly making his mark after being passed over for chief executive at BOC. He's confident about expansion in his native region, promising to triple the pounds 130m a year in sales GKN gets there within four years.

The $570m purchase of Sinter, a powered metal presser, and Chow's consideration of a Vickers plan to buy GKN's armoured vehicles unit, could transform the once-stodgy firm into a growth stock. Analysts expect demand for pallets from GKN's Chep unit and surging helicopter sales will boost earnings 10 per cent in each of the next two years.

Results to date show Mr Chow is off to a good start. Pretax profit rose 23 per cent to pounds 137m in the first half - a surprisingly strong performance in a poor climate.