Best Companies In-[Europe]

Article excerpt

WORLD'S BEST COMPANIES

AIRLINES

Ryanair

CEO: Michael O'Leahy

Despite a setback in the French courts recently over aid from local governments, Ryanair is by far Europe's most successful airline. CEO Michael O'Leahy's abrasive management style wins him few friends, but Ryanair has the lowest costs and the strongest balance sheet in the industry. Net profit increased by 59% to euro239.4 million for the financial year that ended in March, and the company is expected to grow at 25% a year for the next six years.

www.ryanair.com

AUTOMOTIVE

BMW

Chairman and CEO: Helmut Panke

This German titan has a higher market capitalization than General Motors even though it sells a quarter as many cars. The reason is simple: BMW is enormously successful at convincing customers to pay more for its products. The company is no laggard when it comes to innovation, however. Having revitalized the Mini brand, its attention is now focused on a new Rolls-Royce model, the first to be launched since BMW acquired the brand.

www.bmw.com

BEVERAGES

Diageo

CEO: Paul Walsh

The world's largest wines and spirits group took a huge hit from its sale of Burger King, but, excluding exceptionals, pre-tax profits climbed 7%, to L2.16 billion, in the year ended June 2003. The company is confident that its major market of North America is in line for strong growth, and analysts are united in believing that Diageo will benefit from a renewed focus on its drinks business now that it has offloaded Pillsbury and Burger King.

www.diageo.com

CHEMICALS

BASF

Chairman: Jurgen Hambrecht

BASF continues to perform well and recently announced that EBIT before special items for the first half of 2003 was almost euro1.8 billion, or 8.3% higher than in the same period of 2002. All operating divisions were in the black largely as a result of a wide-ranging cost-reduction program. Had it not been for the weak dollar sales, earnings would have been higher still.

www.basf.com

COMPUTER HARDWARE

Logitech

President and CEO: Guerrino De Luca

In April this US/Swiss firm closed a fifth consecutive year of record sales and record profitability. The computer-peripherals-maker posted $1.1 billion in revenue, a 17% increase on 2002. Operating income was $124 million-27% higher than 2002-and net income of $99 million was 32% up on last year. Although the company has suffered from lower margins on its cordless mouse product, deals to produce add-ons for Sony's PlayStation have proved successful.

www.logitech.com

COMPUTER SOFTWARE

SAP

Co-Chairmen and CEOs: Hasso Plattner and Henning Kaqermann

SAP increased market share in 2002 and gained valuable customers such as NASA and Unilever in the United States. Operating income, before charges for stock-based compensation programs and acquisitions, increased by 15%, to euro1.7 billion, and operating margin increased by almost 3%, to 22.7%. Total revenues for the 2002 were up 1%, to euro7.4 billion.

www.sap.com

CONSTRUCTION AND ENGINEERING

Grupo Dragados

Chairman; Antonio Garcia Ferrer

Spanish construction and engineering company Grupo Dragados had a net profit of euro117.3 million in the first six months of 2003, 7.2% more than last year. Its construction and industrial divisions had pre-tax profits that grew 20% and 276% respectively during the same period. The company is currently merging with Actividades de Construccion y Servicios (ACS), which will make it one of the largest construction firms in Europe by market cap and among Europe's five largest contractors by sales, and one of the world's top 10.

www.dragados.com

CONSUMER DURABLES

Electrolux

President and CEO: Hans Straberg

Group sales in 2002 increased by 5.5%, and operating margin improved to 5. …