Given the precarious state of world affairs anemic
expansion in the euro zone, slowing real gross domestic product
growth in many emerging markets, political unrest in the Middle
East and other areas its hardly surprising that
multinational corporations are sitting on a massive $7 trillion
in cash, waiting for a safer set of circumstances in which to
ramp up hiring, acquiring and expanding.
Even more amazing, however, is that select company leaders
have demonstrated a willingness to do something that
doesnt come easily in strapped times: take risks. And
they are being rewarded for their courage.
Weve managed to grow when others have remained
cautious because weve been willing to experiment,
attests Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of
WPP, the worlds largest advertising agency group, by
revenue. Weve not taken massive bets, but
weve made measured bets, and were really making
sure we think about change in a meaningful way.
That attitude helped the U.K.-based outfit expand revenue by
4.6 percent in 2014, to £11.53 billion ($17.91 billion),
despite a drag from currency exchange rates of nearly 7
percent. It also has secured WPP a spot on the 2015 All-Europe
Executive Team, Institutional Investors
exclusive annual ranking of the regions top CEOs, CFOs,
investor relations teams and IR professionals. This years
results reflect the opinions of nearly 870 buy-side analysts
and money managers at 485 firms that collectively manage an
estimated $4.5 trillion in European equities, and from 1,110
analysts from nearly 160 sell-side institutions.
A number of the companies on this years team also
appear on IIs inaugural ranking of
Europes Best Analyst Days.
Many other managers at businesses on this years team
have embraced intrepid strategies. Executives at
Reckitt Benckiser Group, for example, are honing a new
focus on consumer health, having recently spun off its
pharmaceuticals unit. This has been a conscious effort to
sharpen the companys portfolio around what we want to be
good at no, not just good at, the best at, insists
Rakesh Kapoor, CEO of the U.K.-based consumer goods giant.
5 Tips on Innovation from Europes Top
ASML Holding, the worlds largest supplier of the
photolithography machines used in the production of computer
chips, bought U.S.-based Cymer in 2013 so that the Dutch
manufacturer could expand into laser technology. As a key
supplier to the semiconductors industry, ASML must keep pace
with Moores Law named after Intel Corp. co-founder
Gordon Moore which holds that new semiconductors should
double their performance every 18 months without increasing in
price. This requires chip providers to pack more and more
transistors onto new-generation integrated circuits, calling
for smaller and smaller transistors.
Following the Cymer acquisition, ASML has been able to
produce its finest paintbrush ever:
extreme-ultraviolet-lithography machines. The breakthrough
helped the company realize record net sales of 5.86
billion ($7.12 billion) last year, up 12 percent over 2013. CFO
Wolfgang Nickl adds that the companys first-quarter
figures in 2015 set the company on track for another
There was a lot of doubt over the last couple of years
about whether the technology was going to be successful,
he recalls. But we achieved a major milestone.
French oil services provider
Technip also set a sales record in 2014, a goal achieved by
helping its clients save money as oil prices were plummeting.
The big prize is if we can reduce the cost of a project
significantly by being innovative not just by slashing
prices, says CEO Thierry Pilenko.
Although many may wonder where the
price of oil is heading, the producers arent sitting
around waiting for an answer.
Its important to realize that the industry
isnt stopping, he says. The industry is
reshaping itself. This is where the companies that have the
most creativity and flexibility and are closest to the clients
these companies are the ones that are going to get
stronger and emerge as the winners as we get out of this