Ten years ago today one of the UK’s manufacturing institutions was in the final throes of a long and painful death.
MG Rover’s disgraceful management may have pocketed tens of millions for themselves, but 6,500 loyal workers were about to find themselves unemployed as John Towers and his cohorts drove the last major car maker into the ground.
They left behind them a vast run down and contaminated plant in Longbridge, Birmingham. This was a miserable end for the UK motor industry, and for those thousands of workers. I reported on the demise of MG Rover for four years, covering every twist and turn, chasing the self-serving management to the end. When I gave evidence against them to MPs and a government inquiry into the collapse, I took care not only to emphasise the money-grabbing nature of the management, known as the Phoenix Four, but also to make clear the devastation they had left behind.
Longbridge was a crumbling wreck. It appeared as if the Lancaster bombers that were made there during the second world war had returned and dropped their load.
Step in St Modwen, the regeneration company. Last year I took a tour of the site, and saw for myself what St Modwen had achieved. The group has created a brand spanking new town centre, with smart offices, big retail such as Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer, a Premier Inn hotel, restaurants and delis. And with much more to come, Longbridge a decade on will complete a transformation many would have thought impossible a decade ago. St Modwen should be congratulated on that.
It should also be patted on the back for a stellar set of results this morning, which produced record profits of £138.1m. Under the stewardship of long-time boss Bill Oliver, St Modwen has become the UK’s leading regeneration company and we’re about to see the expertise it showed at Longbridge brought to transform one of London’s biggest schemes at Nine Elms, next door to Battersea.
However, I can’t help feel the markets don’t see St Modwen like I do. The group smashed analyst forecasts this morning, but its success hasn’t been the focus of property watchers. Had Land Securities or British Land produced a 68% rise in profits I suspect we’d be reading novel length fawning analyst notes.
For me it’s about time the market stood up and took a great deal more notice of St Modwen. In recent years it hasn’t failed to impress and I suspect there’s more similarly successful years ahead.
C’mon, it’s time St Modwen got the credit it deserves.