The Financial Week Ahead – Ricardo mini boom.

Engineers are frequent recruits to accountancy’s ranks – but at UK automotive developer Ricardo two accountants have brought their skills to engine design and overseen an old economy success story.

This Monday fellow accountants chief executive Rodney Westhead and finance director Andrew Goodburn will reveal annual results likely to reflect a roaring year at the world market leader in petrol and diesel engine design.

A strong year for Westhead and Goodburn, who have worked together at the Shoreham-by-Sea-based group since 1997, was crowned in May with a deal to help develop the new BMW Mini, to be built next year at the Cowley plant in Oxford.

The 18-month partnership with BMW has created 75 jobs at the group’s Leamington facility, who have been transferred from Rover’s engine and transmission plant at Longbridge.

The consulting engineer’s market strength – with clients including Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Renault plus BMW – last month sparked rumours German engineering giant Robert Bosch had made an #350m offer for the group, valuing shares at up to 700p each.

Shares listed on the new Techmark listing shot up by 471.5p to 557.5p and last week remained at 553.5p. Ricardo has 11 operational centres in the UK and US with 1,350 employees, as well as offices in Germany and Prague, with plans to expand in Japan by 2002.

The group this summer also joined automotive industry business-to-business platform – set up by management consultancy A T Kearney to make $10m of savings across the European automotive supply sector. Interim results last February showed overall increase in turnover of 20% to #54.2m and profits before tax increase 25% to #5.6m. Westhead said: ‘We are continuing to increase and improve our research and development to make us ideally placed to help manufacturers.’

A former Grant Thornton partner, Westhead joined Ricardo as group FD in 1972 and has been chief executive and company secretary since 1992.

FD Goodburn qualified with Price Waterhouse and was appointed group FD in 1997.

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