Just over a year into his tenure, CRH boss making giant strides

Albert Manifold has transformed firm’s fortunes and delivered impressive set of results

Almost exactly 12 months ago, CRH’s then new chief executive, Albert Manifold, said the company had “forgotten its core principles” during the boom. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Almost exactly 12 months ago, CRH’s then new chief executive, Albert Manifold, said the company had “forgotten its core principles” during the boom. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A year is a long time in the tenure of a listed company chief executive.

Almost exactly 12 months ago, CRH’s then new chief executive, Albert Manifold, said the company had “forgotten its core principles” during the boom and had overpaid for many assets.

CRH makes much of its unified corporate culture, and Manifold may have been stung at the time by suggestions that he was passing judgment on the reign of his predecessors. Perhaps he wasn’t.

A year later, as he delivered the first full set of results derived under his tenure, Manifold was much more careful, to the point of downplaying his own clear contribution to its impressive set of 2014 results.

Core approach

“I don’t do anything differently,” he said, ready for the question. “We have simply seen a change in the cycle.”

He argued that in the “tough times” of 2008 and 2009, management did what it had to do in the circumstances. Now that the business is in a growth phase, his regime is simply doing what is appropriate now.

“There is no change. This is the CRH way of doing business.” He may be reluctant to claim the credit in deference to the “CRH way”, but it is clear that the strategy devised under his eye is driving the company forward.

Its share price is up more than 17 per cent from a year ago. That is not simply a change in the cycle, it is investors responding to its renewed pursuit of high returns over acquisitions in faddish markets.

CRH is an old hand at the acquisitions game, but Manifold’s stewardship of the recently agreed €6.5 billion deal to buy the Lafarge-Holcoim assets showed a steadiness of nerve.

CRH is also selling off some of its poorest-performing assets while buying others. But, as Manifold said, it is selling at up to 11 times earnings and buying at seven or eight times earnings.

Ukraine conflict

Forget the numbers, he insisted, why is nobody interested in whether our 1,000 employees are safe? They are safe, as it happens.

The answer was rehearsed, perhaps, but at least he rehearsed the right answer.

Manifold has well and truly found his feet.

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