Unipart's profits increase to pounds 25m: Parts company continues rise since buyout

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UNIPART reinforced its status as one of Britain's most successful industrial turnaround stories by announcing pre-tax profits of pounds 24.9m, up 26 per cent, in 1993.

The company, bought by its management from Rover Group in 1987, saw sales rise from pounds 661m to pounds 714m. Employee shareholders are receiving a 35p dividend for shares that cost them 5p each seven years ago.

The company makes exhausts and fuel tanks for manufacturers including Rover, Toyota and Honda, and is Britain's largest independent spare parts group.

At the time of the buyout, it was in danger of losing business even from Rover. The factories were so bad that City advisers told John Neill, chief executive, he should sell the sites for redevelopment.

Instead Mr Neill, who had already revamped the marketing side, set about overhauling the factories and introducing Japanese management techniques.

Last year the company's exhaust plant in Coventry was voted 'best factory' in a Management Today/Cranfield School of Management Competition. It also won the contract to supply all the exhausts for Saab's 9000 and 900 models.

The most unusual development was the establishment of Unipart U, a 'university' to provide training on the Japanese model - managers are supposed to learn from shop- floor workers as much as the other way round. A spokesman said that this is necessary because Unipart is apprehensive about competition from countries such as China, where high levels of investment are combined with very low wages. 'The only way we can beat them is to think of ways of avoiding costs,' he said. 'We have to get people into the habit of thinking of ways of doing their jobs better.'

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