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Company spotlight: Mowlem


WHAT companies like more than anything else when a new man comes in is stability.

But the problems at Mowlem have meant that new chief executive Simon Vivian, fresh from completing a fivemonth strategic review of the business, has been forced into admitting job cuts and office closures are on the way.

The firm produced a bleak set of results for 2004 - the last with Mr Vivian's predecessor Sir John Gains at the helm.

He had wanted to go out on a high but his near 40-year association with the firm has ended recalling the grim days of the early 1990s.

Some accused Sir John of hanging on for too long and taking his eye off the ball. Mr Vivian has blamed historic accounting issues, something that has not gone down too well with departing finance director Gerry Brown.

And Mr Vivian has been further accused of ruffling feathers among managers at its loss-making construction business - they are being forced to reapply for their jobs - while others have privately complained that Mr Brown's departure was poorly handled.

But Mr Vivian has a big job on his hands at a firm that is supposed to be a blue chip contractor but has, if the past two years are anything to go by, been performing like a basket case.

The bad signs had already been there in 2003.Pre-tax profits that year only rose because of the sale of a PFI stake for £15.6 million.

At the time the company complained it was unfair to point this out. But it seemed like a classic case of masking deeper problems. A new man looks to have brought about a greater sense of reality.