Cover Story : The Best Companies In Europe




CEO: Michael OLeahy

Despite a setback in the French courts recently over aid from local governments, Ryanair is by far Europes most successful airline. CEO Michael OLeahys 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 239.4 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.



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.



CEO: Paul Walsh

The worlds largest wines and spirits group took a huge hit from its sale of Burger King, but, excluding exceptionals, pre-tax profits climbed 7%, to 2.16 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.



Chairman: Jrgen Hambrecht

BASF continues to perform well and recently announced that EBIT before special items for the first half of 2003 was almost 1.8 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.



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 million27% higher than 2002and 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 Sonys PlayStation have proved successful.



Co-Chairmen and CEOs:

Hasso Plattner and Henning Kagermann

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 1.7 billion, and operating margin increased by almost 3%, to 22.7%.Total revenues for the 2002 were up 1%,to 7.4 billion.


Grupo Dragados

Chairman: Antonio Garca Ferrer

Spanish construction and engineering company Grupo Dragados had a net profit of 117.3 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 Construccin y Servicios (ACS), which will make it one of the largest construction firms in Europe by market cap and among Europes five largest contractors by sales, and one of the worlds top 10.



President and CEO: Hans Strberg

Group sales in 2002 increased by 5.5%, and operating margin improved to 5.8%.Much of the growth came from higher volumes, lower costs for materials, and savings generated by restructuring. Especially encouraging for the company was the recovery in US sales, which had been badly hit in 2001. Electrolux has regained its previous market share in the US by accelerating product development and getting those new products to market more quickly.



Chairman and CEO: Lindsay Owen-Jones

Despite what it claimed to be a difficult operating environment, LOral increased sales in the first half of 2003 by 7.1%, to 7.14 billion, and profit by 9% on the same period of 2002. Strong growth in emerging markets such as China,India and Eastern Europe pushed the company forward while new cosmetics developments helped consumer products surge by 9.3%.



CEOs: Philippe Camus and Rainer Hertrich

Revenues at European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) fell slightly during the first half of 2003 from 13.97 billion during the same period of 2002 to 13.06 billion. But orders for the companys Airbus unit (EADS owns 80% of Airbus) are solid going forward, and the company claims a 66% market share. It is on track to meet its 300 Airbus deliveries target this year.



President and CEO: Heinrich Pierer

In the fiscal year 2002, net income totaled 2.6 billion, and EBIT from operations was 2.5 billionboth a substantial improvement from the previous year. One important achievement for this German lightbulb- to-mobile-phone firm is improved profitability in its US operations, now the largest market for the company, ahead of Germany and China.



President and CEO: Harry Roels

RWE increased its earnings in its core business by 46% in the first half of 2003.A focus on electricity,gas,water and environmental services has resulted in the consolidation of American Water, UK-based Innogy and the companys Czech gas business. The company expects a low-double-digit increase in earnings for 2003 as a whole. A simplified group structure introduced in October should decrease costs and increase synergies.



Vice Chairman and CEO: Peter Brabeck

This Swiss-based global giant increased organic growth by 5.5% in the first six months of 2003 and increased its EBITDA margin to 12.2%. Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa experienced high organic growth, and the company believes that it will be able to maintain this pace for the remainder of the year.The recent US approval of Nestls deal with Dreyers positions the company as a market leader in the country with the highest per capita consumption of ice cream and closes an acquisition phase in the sector that has added Hagen-Dazs, Schller and Mvenpick to Nestl.


Hilton Group

CEO: David Michels

This company, which operates the Hilton brand outside the US and also owns the Ladbrokes betting chain, has had a tough 2002 and saw profits fall 3.1% to 271 million. But the firms betting group has been a success story and recorded profits up 31.5% to 149.3 million. Its Internetbased betting and casino operations continued to grow strongly.


Munich Re

Chairman: Hans-Jrgen Schinzler

One of the worlds largest reinsurers may have had its AA- rating removed by S&P;,but it has accelerated plans to replenish its funds in a bid to regain it.The company says that its financial strength has increased considerably, and its subsidiary American Re has been turning a profit since the beginning of 2003.


Deutsche Post World Net

Chairman: Klaus Zumwinkel

With plans under way to float part of its wholly owned subsidiary Postbank, Germans largest retail bank, raising up to 1 billion, Deutsche Post World Net is unlikely to be short of cash as it goes back on the acquisition trail. Most recently it has purchased Airborne in the US through its DHL subsidiary, making it number three in that market after UPS and FedEx. Its stated goal is to become number one globally. In fiscal 2002 revenues rose by 17.6%, to 39.3 billion, and profit from operating activities was 2.42 billion.


Reed Elsevier

CEO: Crispin Davis

The first half of 2003 saw pre-tax profits increase by 3%, to 408 million, in a tight market.That followed an 11% growth in pre-tax profits during fiscal 2002.The companys legal division, LexisNexis, has recently acquired Applied Discovery and units of Dolan Media in the US market, giving it further strength in one of its most profitable areas.A clear strategy is now paying dividends, according to CEO Crispin Davis.


Anglo American

CEO: Tony Trahar

UK-listed Anglo Americans recent financial results were above expectations, with diamond revenues up a phenomenal 49% in the six months to June. Turnover increased 26%, to $12.07 billion. Strategic acquisitions mean the company is likely to benefit from price rises in gold and platinum expected later in the year.A thorough rearrangement of the companys assets undertaken since 1999 is paying dividends, according to analysts.



CEO: John Brown

BP has recently signed a deal in Russia with AAR to merge in assets in Sidanco and TNK, which should see it leapfrog Shell to become the secondlargest private-sector oil producer in the world.Its most recent financial results were similarly momentous, with revenue up 42% in the second quarter and an impressive 81% in the first half versus the previous year.



Chairman and CEO: Daniel Vasella

Novartis recorded record results in 2002the sixth year in a row since the company was created. First-half figures for 2003 show it also shaping up to be a good year, with group sales up 20%, to $11.9 billion. The pharmaceuticals division increased sales by 18%, outpacing the market, with the generics division Sandoz increasing a substantial 87%.The company denies it has its eye on US acquisitions and instead believes its organic growth strategy will continue to show results.



CEO: Terry Leahy

This supermarket firm now dominates the UK market and continues to grow at an astonishing rate, rapidly moving into higher-margin non-food products. In the 24 weeks to August, sales were up 17%,and pre-tax profits rose 21.3%, to 661 million. International operating profit increased 66.1%, to 98 million, in the same period proof that its aggressive overseas expansion from South Korea to Central Europe is working.The company is also the worlds most successful online supermarket and is now rolling out in the US in partnership with Safeway.


Hennes & Mauritz

CEO: Rolf Eriksen

Swedish firm H&M; has the market for high-fashion-at-low-cost cornered in Europe and is growing fast in the United States.Turnover increased by 8% in the first nine months of 2003, and profit after financial items was SKr6.36 billion ($780 million), an increase of 21%. The chain now has stores in 18 countries and plans, by the end of this year, to have opened 110 new stores in 2003 alone.



Chairman and CEO: Jorma Ollila

Nokia is currently reorganizing itself to better benefit from new market opportunities and has recently acquired to further enhance its online games offerings for mobile phone users.While second-quarter operating profit fell 32%, to 858 million, compared to 2002, this included a charge of 399 million related to restructuring in Nokia Networksa move many analysts believe will set the company on course for further growth.



CEO: Arun Sarin

The company may now be without its dynamic and charismatic figurehead Chris Gent, who retired in August (though he remains life president of the company),but it is still the worlds largest mobile phone operator, with 122.7 million customers,and hovers just outside the top 10 global companies by market capitalization. Vodafone has continued its strategy of increasing stakes in its global mobile ventures while exiting low-margin businesses such as Japan Telecoms fixed-line business.



Co-Chairmen:Pablo Isla and Jean-Dominique Comolli

Altadis is the result of the 1999 merger between Spanish tobacco company Tabacalera and French counterpart Seitaa good example of deregulation and the euro prompting rationalization. The company is already Europes third-largest cigarette manufacturer and the worlds largest producer of cigars. During the first half of 2003 sales grew by 3.5 %, to 1.59 billion, and it increased its EBITDA margin by 1%, to 30.7 %.