Defence giant Babcock has appointed its first female chair in Ruth Cairnie, a former Shell executive and Rolls-Royce non-executive director.
Cairnie will join the FTSE 250 government contractor as a non-executive director with immediate effect, Babcock announced this morning, boosting its shares one per cent in early morning trading.
She will be tasked with turning around the fortunes of the ailing defence giant after several years of struggles. In late 2017 it was kicked out of the FTSE 100 for a perceived over-reliance on MoD contracts, amid a growing fear about firms publicly listed as support services companies as Carillion approached its January 2018 collapse.
Then, last year, an anonymous analyst’s note questioned the company’s relationship with the MoD late last year, causing its shares to tank.
Babcock’s stock market value has fallen more than 50 per cent since highs of 1094p in 2016, down to 507p this morning.
Cairnie said she was “delighted” to join the firm, and looked forward to working to “deliver shareholder value to help maximise future opportunities.”
“I am hugely enthusiastic about the opportunity to oversee the next stage of Babcock’s development as a major company delivering complex engineering to support its clients, both in the UK and internationally,” she added.
Cairnie will replace outgoing chairman of 11 years, Mike Turner, after the firm’s annual general meeting in July.
Turner said: “Following a thorough process to identify and select a new chair… we are delighted to welcome Ruth to the board.
“She is a strategic thinker and strong leader, and we look forward to her bringing her in-depth experience, gained from a broad range of executive and non-executive roles at leading industrial companies, both in the UK and internationally, to benefit Babcock.”
Robin Speakman, analyst at Shore Capital Markets, said Cairnie's appointment would be of interest to the government "right up to cabinet level," and that she was "well-known to government as a strategic adviser".
He added she is "a strong individual in our view," and that Babcock as a firm was "ripe for some cultural change".
With UK heavy industry firms such as Babcock, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems continuing to be male dominated, Cairnie's appointment "has got to be very welcome."