City keen to see if Bell rings changes at Menzies

Paula Bell replaces retiring finance director Paul Dollman
Paula Bell replaces retiring finance director Paul Dollman
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ANALYSTS are hoping Paula Bell will put in an appearance when John Menzies presents its full-year results on Tuesday, even though the group’s incoming finance director won’t officially take up her new job for many more weeks.

With few surprises expected from the Edinburgh-based airport services and distribution group, attention has swung to Bell and what impact she might have.

Her appointment, announced at the end of January, is considered particularly significant in the context of the unique structure of Menzies’ board of directors, which has no chief executive.

Bell replaces retiring finance director Paul Dollman, who announced in January that he would step down in May after ten years with the group to pursue a portfolio career of non-executive appointments.

Having led the rescue operation to save Menzies when its shares crashed in the combined banking and aviation crisis of 2009, his was seen as a tough act to follow.

But one analyst said: “From what I have heard about Paula, there won’t be any weakness in the company as a result of Paul leaving and her coming in. We have heard very good things about her, and I would hope to meet her this week.”

Bell joins Menzies from consultancy group Ricardo, where she has been finance chief for more than six years. Her CV includes a spell as a director with BAA Gatwick, which should give her insight into Menzies’ expanding aviation business.

The group is expected to report steady growth for 2012. Profits will likely be maintained in the newspaper and magazine distribution business, while analysts are anticipating news of growing market share in the ground handling arm of the aviation division.

Menzies has focused on growing its ground handling operations, where volumes are less volatile than in cargo shipping.

Earlier this year the company announced the closure of its loss-making cargo business at Chicago Airport, the last of the so-called “three ugly sisters” which included Manchester Airport and London Heathrow, within the division.

All together, the group is expected to post an increased profit of about £58 million on turnover of £1.9 billion.

Last year Menzies’ under­lying profit before taxation was up 25 per cent to £56.4m, on turnover of £2bn.