Toyota dealer boss at risk

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The Independent Online
SIR David Plastow, chairman of Inchcape, the international distribution and services group, could soon face calls for him to step down, amid growing City discontent.

Unhappiness among analysts and fund managers grew last week after Sir David felt obliged to issue a warning that the company's profits were likely to have fallen by around £25m to £227m last year. This is despite a strong performance by many of Inchcape's businesses, implying that profits at the problem motor division fell by considerably more.

Critics of Sir David point out that Inchcape shares have underperformed since his arrival in September1992. While the FT-SE 100 index has advanced by about 30 per cent since then, Inchcape shares are almost back to the level they were at when Sir David joined.

He immediately took responsibility for shareholder communications. But although he is a keen proponent of corporate governance, he has left his own position undefined, neither executive nor non-executive. "On the one hand you've got to sympathise," said one analyst, "because a lot of their difficulties - the strength of the yen and the lack of product from Toyota cars - are out of their control. On the other hand, perhaps they should have a strategy which anticipates that."

A company spokesman pointed out that Sir David had created a strong group of non-executive directors. He added: "If your skills are marketing-services related, you are not going to become a manufacturer. I don't think that because there is a temporary problem, you abandon your strategy."

q Amec and Balfour Beatty, part of BICC, announced yesterday they were part of a group that had won an £800m contract to construct the terminal building for Hong Kong's new Chek Lap Kok airport.