Weir Group set for change as boss Keith Cochrane steps down

Venerable engineering giant Weir Group is set for a change of leadership after announcing that chief executive Keith Cochrane is stepping down.

Keith Cochrane - Chief Executive Weir Group. Picture: Contributed

Current group finance director Jon Stanton, who has been in the role since 2010, will take the helm at the start of October, with the changeover coming after Cochrane served as chief executive for seven years and sat on the company’s board for ten.

The group made the revelation as it reported a 25 per cent year-on-year drop in interim pre-tax profit, to £82 million, weighed down by declines in North American oil and gas markets.

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Its oil and gas division swung to an operating loss of £2m from an operating profit of £36m 12 months previously.

Group revenue fell to £866m from £981m, which the group said mirrored order input trends.

Cochrane told The Scotsman that the scale of the oil and gas downturn “obviously impacts the overall group numbers” but added that the firm has, in the last few weeks, started to see signs of “a more stable oil and gas market, so it does feel as if the bottom has been reached”.

Looking at the interim results overall, he said: “Our first-half performance was ahead of market expectations and demonstrated the group’s fundamental strength and resilience.”

The firm also addressed the issue of Brexit, with Cochrane having been among Scottish business leaders such as Standard life chairman Sir Gerry Grimstone supporting a Remain vote.

Cochrane stressed that the group’s exports from the UK to the EU constitute about 2 per cent of overall revenues, “so in that sense it does not have a material impact other than clearly making our UK businesses more cost-competitive.”

However, overall he said: “I think the jury is out clearly until we understand what form EU exit will take.”

Noting that yesterday marked his “20th and final” results presentation, he addressed his own moves after stepping down, stating: “One thing I’m sure I’m not doing is retiring.

“As to what exactly my next role will involve, we will need to wait and see. I do plan to remain active and look out for the right opportunity.

“It is time to pass on the baton, particularly against the backcloth of a business in good shape… with lots of opportunity ahead of it.”

On the group’s outlook, he said: “Our full-year guidance for a reduction in constant currency group operating profits is unchanged.”

Weir Group also said it decided to hold the interim dividend flat at 15p per share for the period, to be paid on 4 November.