Gene Murtagh aims to double size of materials business every five years and expand across globe
Last week Gene Murtagh, the 34-year-old chief executive of the Irish building products company Kingspan, revealed an impressive set of results, the first since he took over his family's 34-year-old company.
In the year to 31 December, Kingspan passed the *1bn turnover mark for the first time. This is no surprise to Murtagh: "We are number one in practically everything we do - and where we're not, we will be," he says as he sits in the five-star Hempel Hotel in Bayswater, London, which he bought in October as part of his personal investment portfolio.
The strong financial performance of Kingspan in 2005 speaks for itself. Pre-tax profit rose 40% to *135m (£93m). The growth was boosted by acquisitions, which contributed *16m (£11m) to profit, but a key factor was changes in energy efficiency regulations. "The aim is to reduce energy in UK buildings 25% by 2015 because 50% of CO2 comes from buildings. Our insulated panels are the thinnest available because of our exclusive technology.
"We love regulations. We understand they can be a pain in the arse but we purposefully positioned the business to take this opportunity and anything that reduces energy consumption is good."
But Murtagh's ideas for growth are not limited to building on the existing business. "The intention is to move to hereto uncharted waters, definitely further east. Five years ago things got very difficult in Benelux and Germany and so we built up central and eastern Europe."
Murtagh has earmarked North America as a market for further growth, because at present raised access floors are its only product offering in the USA. "So, there is a lot of opportunity for our insulated panels and off-site structural business in America," he says.
The residential sector comprises 35% of the business, and modern methods of construction have played an important role in that. Kingspan's timber-frame structures, which have in-built insulation, about halve construction time, according to Murtagh. It has worked on projects with English Partnerships, Taylor Woodrow, Westbury and Barratt with this product.
The young chief executive is also setting his sights on Australia, the Ukraine and the Baltics. With characteristic confidence he says:
We love regulations. We understand they can be a pain in the arse but we positioned the business to take this opportunity
"It is quite achievable for us to double the business on a rolling five-year basis."
Murtagh plays down his influence and that of the family on the business, despite the fact his father co-founded it 34 years ago and his family has a 30% stake.
Gene himself joined the business, which is based in Cavan, north-west of Dublin, two days after he graduated in 1993.
"Me being here was not a foregone conclusion, though. We don't run the business dynastically. There is less than a handful of family members in a company of 4000."
But his involvement, drive and control are clear: "Each business is rigorously reviewed once a month. The size of the business doesn't go unnoticed but it doesn't remotely intimidate me."
Kingspan at a glance
- Founded in 1972 by Eugene and Brendan Murtagh
- Turnover: *1.24bn or £860m (+30%)
- Pre-tax profit: *135m or £93m (+40%)
- Earnings per share: 66.4 *cent or 45.8p (+41%)
- Total dividend: 13.4 *cent or 9.24p per share (+40%)
- Number of staff: 4000
- Locations: Europe, Far East, USA