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March 1, 2018

VIEWPOINT 2018: Robert Conway, Executive Chairman, Blakell Europlacer Group

VIEWPOINT 2018: Robert Conway, Executive Chairman, Blakell Europlacer Group
Robert Conway, Executive Chairman, Blakell Europlacer Group
The Executive Chairman of the Blakell Europlacer Group, Robert Conway, reports that the companies with the Group have delivered record results in 2017. Mr Conway, also founder and chairman of Parable Trust, points to growth figures for the year upwards of 16%, resulting in a doubling of the business in the five the years since Parable Trust acquired the Group.

The statistics for Europlacer's turnover are paralleled by notable increases in staff levels worldwide, and in the number of countries in which Europlacer now does business -- up from 17 to 37 in five years. Another meaningful indicator of performance is that the company added one brand new customer to its order book every week on average in 2017.

"Whatever the measure, 2017 proved to be a record year for us," says Robert. "While turnover is up 16% in one year to £27m, this is just the latest step in a 14% CAGR we've achieved over the past five years since the acquisition -- and this in a market sector that is not expanding significantly. The share of revenue by geography is also a cause for celebration. Our home turf in the UK and France accounted for 44% of revenue; Europe delivered double-digit growth with best-ever results in the UK, plus outstanding gains in Germany and Italy. The US also delivered a record turnover. Meanwhile Asia led the way globally with 40% growth last year."

Robert and his management team recognise the opportunities for Europlacer in the US market and China. "These regions grew the fastest, so we are continuing to invest strategically," he explains. "The US is fertile territory: our highly flexible placement platform products and the exemplary customer support we strive to deliver are exactly right for the market."

Similarly, Robert acknowledges the importance of Asia, and China specifically, which experts agree accounts for around a third of the total available worldwide market in the electronics manufacturing sector. "Some 90% of surface mount placement machines are imported into China. We observe that our competitors in China are predominantly Japanese. And that gives us an edge with our products that represent a smart and desirable French brand. There's everything to play for," he claims.

Looking ahead, Europlacer is embarking upon a five-year plan that more than doubles the size of the business again. Robert points out that growth in 2017 was achieved with no significant new product additions to the company's portfolio. "That all changed with our introduction of the atom platform last November, in the US next month and Asia this March. The atom opens up new markets for us. Also, I believe that our customer focus and business integrity are unmatched anywhere in the world. Multinational competitors cannot behave the way we do; they can't be family-like. We can."

Asked what 'family-like' means in this context, Robert explains: "look at the evidence in our Hall of Fame for long-serving employees. 20% worldwide have notched up over 20 years' service. Half of those have been with us for more than 30 years. Our ethics and commercial purpose are also extremely unusual," he claims. "Parable Trust is a Christian faith-based organisation that uses all profits to help the poor and needy. We ask our staff to choose charities in their region, and we adopt those as the financial beneficiaries of our giving."

Robert Conway, Executive Chairman
Blakell Europlacer Group