Remoulded BBA shows its fibre
He need not have worried. Yesterday's figures for the half-year to June should have quelled any remaining doubts about Mr Quarta's record. The underlying performance was hidden by the last elements of his reshaping of the business. A pounds 26.7m goodwill write-off on the sale of the Automotive Products clutch and brake business last time turned into an pounds 11m write- back in the latest figures from the sale of the Duralay carpet underlay operation. But leaving one-offs to one side, there was a 19 per cent increase in profits to pounds 72.1m in the period.
Having now largely completed the remoulding of BBA, Mr Quarta's task this year is to prove that the resulting business is capable of growth. The 24 per cent rise in turnover in the first half is early proof that it is.
Admittedly, Mr Quarta had some, unspecified, help from the first-time inclusion of Holvis, the Swiss group acquired last June. After disposals, that deal netted the Fiberweb business for BBA, turning it into the world's third-largest producer of non-woven fabrics for the likes of nappies, surgical use and filters. Stripping that out, the underlying sales increase was pared back to 5 per cent.
Even so, there is clearly still plenty to go for at BBA. Weeding out the underperformers has resulted in a further step change in margins, and even in the continuing operations, the return on sales has marched up 1.2 percentage points to 13.5 per cent in the half-year. The addition of Fiberweb and improvements to its pre-acquisition return on sales of 5 per cent helped continuing profits in effect double to pounds 44.7m in BBA's industrial division. But given that Fiberweb's utilisation is still only 85 per cent of capacity, and with new applications for non-wovens appearing all the time, there should be more where that came from.
Elsewhere, despite its heavy exposure to the car industry, which accounts for around a quarter of group sales, BBA's brake linings business has much to commend it. The friction materials arm, Europe's leading manufacturer, shrugged off a tough six months for German car sales and, despite signs of a slowdown in the European market, the outlook is set fair. The DM20m (pounds 8.45m) efficiency programme launched in Germany last year will be delivering in full from next year, but most excitement should come from the US business. From a standing start in 1991, that is on course to take 10 per cent of the $1bn-$1.5bn market by the end of the decade.
The group now has firepower of up to pounds 300m for acquisitions without recourse to shareholders. Full-year profits of pounds 142m before exceptionals would put the shares, up 11p at 334p, on a forward p/e ratio of 17. Hold.
That's some guestlist! Stunning images show huge dynastic wedding between Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families which attracted 25,000 guests
Exclusive: Woolwich attack suspect attended meetings of banned Islamist group - and were known by security services
'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
World news in pictures
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, the mother-of-two hailed as a hero for confronting Woolwich attackers, thought: 'better me than a child'
- 1 Exclusive: Woolwich attack suspect attended meetings of banned Islamist group - and were known by security services
- 2 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 3 Grace Dent: I’m not sure how these people can avoid being called ‘bigots’. And the more ‘civilised’, the worse they are
- 4 Woolwich murder: They killed, then they performed - these men should be starved of our attention
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.