The Financial Week Ahead – Newswatch: All change for chameleon-like

Chameleon manufacturer Marconi has gone through more than just a name change over the last six months with a fundamental shift of business from defence to telecoms equipment manufacturer, writes Jerry Frank. Old and new sit side-by-side at the group formerly known as GEC, who are one of the few blue chip names to figure as a leader in the UK’s hi-tech sector boom. The Marconi name, which has been linked with new technology and innovation since Guglielmo Marconi sent the first wireless message over 100 years ago, was adopted last year when GEC offloaded its defence and aerospace interests to BAE systems. A new factory manufacturing internet switches and routers is set to generate 2,000 new jobs at the centre of the old industrial heartland in Coventry offsetting redundancies at nearby Rover. And as the group posts its first annual results tomorrow under the Marconi name, a new business unit has been set up to roll out its e-business strategy. Marconi Software Solutions will function as an independent entity and offer software development and support to the group, and as a systems integrator and software supplier to other companies. Managing director Fiona Pearson said: ‘There is a massive opportunity in e-business at the moment, which we are in a great position to capitalise on.’ MSS aims to hit a #30m turnover this year with 50% of its revenue from outside the group, and industry analysts believe the move into tailor-made software systems will generate huge revenue for the group. Developing back-end software systems to integrate with websites will especially help retailers looking to move into e-commerce, Pearson said. Government agencies who have to deliver a quarter of service online by 2001 will also be targeted. Oracle and Sun will provide MSS with software.

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