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Soames in airport warning

RUPERT Soames, chief executive of Glasgow-based temporary power company Aggreko, warned delegates at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference the UK risks "blowing" its status as a base for global companies unless it improves infrastructure such as airports.

PLANE TALKING:  Mr Soames is worried over airport expansion delay.
PLANE TALKING: Mr Soames is worried over airport expansion delay.

His comments came as Aggreko revealed it had signed a $75 million (£47m) two-year deal to provide another 100 megawatts of gas-fuelled temporary power in the Ivory Coast.

In a keynote speech to the conference in London, Mr Soames said the UK should be the headquarters for global companies.

However, he cautioned: "If we are not careful we are going to blow it because we do not have the infrastructure in airports, proper hub airports, and immigration. The Government really has to get to grips with this," he added.

He complained about the difficulty a visiting client faces in clearing immigration controls.

Mr Soames is just the latest senior business leader to indicate dissatisfaction with the Government's stance on airport expansion with any decision put back until at least 2015 until an inquiry is completed.

Aggreko obtains 65% of its revenues from emerging markets and 5% from the UK.

However, it makes all of its generators in Dumbarton and has 10% of its workforce in Britain.

Mr Soames described Aggreko as applying the "drunk man theory" to marketing.

"You have to lean up against every door and sooner or later one will open," he said.

Mr Soames, the grandson of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, cited as an example recent problems at nuclear power stations in South Korea.

"We would not be able to be there if we had not put people on the ground," he said, although he said the company has not yet signed a deal there.

Mr Soames said any company seeking to move into emerging markets had to ensure they had something new to offer.

"Me-too does not work but faster, cheaper does," he said.

A key part of Aggreko's success is it employs the same business model across the globe, he claimed.

This supports efficient working and allows it to launch into new countries very quickly.

"Many companies that claim to be global are in fact loose federations of national businesses doing roughly the same sort of thing," he said.

"But roughly-the-same does not buy low costs, exactly-the-same does."

The only things that had changed in developed countries in the last 20 years he said were "gadgets and death" as people lived longer and adopted technologies such as tablet computers.

He said there was far more rapid economic change and urbanisation in many developing countries. He predicted this would be the pattern for the next 20 years.

Mr Soames said developed markets were like the battle of the Somme, a "grinding struggle from fixed positions to gain share yard by yard".

In emerging markets, he said conditions are "much more fluid".

Aggreko's latest deal in the Ivory Coast comes two years after it first installed a 100mw power station in the West African nation.

Mr Soames said: "We are delighted our customer has entrusted us with a further 100mw. We believe this underlines the success of our gas-fuelled power plants, in which we have invested heavily in recent years."

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