Industry improves links to investors

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The Independent Online
WHEN IT COMES to dealing with the City, industrialists sound a bit like those men who prop up pub bars and say: 'My wife doesn't understand me.'

However, it is becoming widely acknowledged that they have a point. The latest support comes from a project funded by the Department of Trade and Industry's innovation unit.

What is claimed to be the first gathering of senior figures from the analyst, engineering and investor communities has produced a number of proposals that could increase dramatically the competitiveness of British industry.

In the report Engineering Consensus, particular support is given for codes on 'good disclosure practice' and 'patient money'. The former is designed to promote communication between investors and managers; the latter aims to correct the situation where potentially valuable long-term capital invested by pension funds is turned into short-term money through what Paul Myners, managing director of Gartmore, the investment manager, calls 'our slavish fixation with short-term performance'.

Mr Myners, who played a part in the discussions that produced the recommendations, said at the recent launch of the report that he hoped organisations representing the investment community would develop 'working and practical proposals' that would enable the patient money code to work.

The trend towards more concentrated portfolio management in this country - both in terms of fewer management houses having a larger market share and through institutions holding shares of fewer companies in their portfolios - would be 'a valuable support to institutional investors becoming actively involved with the companies in whose shares they have invested their clients' funds,' he added.

Nor is he alone. Nearly three quarters of those attending from such organisations as Lucas Industries, Rolls-Royce, SG Warburg and KB Securities said the meetings with their opposite numbers had improved communication, trust and understanding.

More important, according to the organisers, is the performance of the engineering sector since the project took place. In the five months since the end of October, it has outperformed the stock market index by 10 per cent, while the chemicals, health and household sectors have collectively underperformed by 14 per cent. While the first quarter usually produces a rise in engineering stocks, the average increase is only about 1 per cent.

The figures were termed inconclusive, but encouraging.