Invensys faces sell-off to survive

Just nine months on, he will now be intimately involved in discussions on whether the company should sell up as much as two-thirds of its business, part of the board battle to turn Invensys around following what can only described as an ‘annus horribilis’.

After taking over from Kathleen O’Donovan, the only female FD in the FTSE-100 at the time, the new man has been dealing with some of the company’s most difficult times.

One crucial issue for Hennah, who joined after working as a finance executive at GlaxosmithKline, will be trying to soften the blow following a series of writedowns after the earlier sale of parts of the business.

Troubles began last year with the global economic downturn. Engineering was among the sectors hardest hit and Invensys, which was then one of the UK’s largest engineering companies, issued two profit warnings and slashed 6,300 jobs.

In February 2002, the company announced it would radically restructure by splitting two core divisions and attempting to halve its debt burden of £3bn.

In the 12 months that followed, Invensys started making disposals. In August, it sold Sensor Systems to US group Honeywell for $394m (£241m).

Then, in September, it old US-based Rexnord business for $880m.

It was about that time O’Donovan stepped down and Hennah had to come in and pick up the reins.

But despite selling off parts of its business and restructuring, Invensys dismayed investors in November by announcing lower profits and warning that it expected trading in the second half of the year ‘to remain, at best, flat with the first half’.

A baptism of fire for any newly arrived executive leading finance.

The company’s difficulties continued into the new year, as it issued a shock profits warning in February of 2003, saying it expected profits to fall 25% below forecasts, sending shares down 46%.

Chief executive Rick Haythornthwaite expressed disappointment, but told investors: ‘Many areas are showing significant performance improvement.’ Soon afterwards, the company dropped from the FTSE-100 index.

First to know whether Haythornthwaite was right will be Hennah.

Related reading