Tuesday 23 January 2018

Kingspan isn't planning active role in Grenfell fire inquiry: CEO

Kingspan CEO Gene Murtagh
Kingspan CEO Gene Murtagh
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Cavan-based insulation maker Kingspan has no plans to request participation in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, but will engage and respond to any approaches made by the inquiry's investigators, according to Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh.

The Grenfell Tower inferno in London in June killed at least 80 people.

A public inquiry into the disaster officially started this week.

Kingspan insulation used on a very small part of the 24-storey tower block was fit for purpose as manufactured.

But it emerged that the company's insulation product was combined by contractors during a refit of the tower with building cladding with which the Kingspan product was not designed to be used.

The Kingspan material in the Grenfell tower had been provided to contractors by an independent distributor.

A Kingspan Koolthem product was used in less than 5pc of the area on the tower that was covered by cladding that was combustible.

The Cavan-based company has previously stated that its Kooltherm K15 product was used without its knowledge in a combination the company would not recommend.

The inquiry will focus on issues such as the cause of the fire and how it spread, as well as the design and construction of the building and the decisions relating to its modification, refurbishment and management.

"Our role in this is very responsive," Mr Murtagh told the Irish Independent. "We were an indirect material supplier, to a tiny degree."

He said that Kingspan will submit evidence if it is requested to, but is not currently establishing any response to the inquiry.

"We'll be responsive to whatever the requirements are," he said. "We'll cooperate completely with it, but we don't expect to be the focus. This is all to be extremely wide-ranging."

Mr Murtagh was speaking as Kingpsan delivered a strong set of first-half results that beat expectations.

Its revenue rose 19pc to €1.75bn in the first six months of 2017, and its trading profit was 6pc higher at €177.8m.

Shares in the company soared 10pc yesterday to more than €31.50, giving Kingspan a market capitalisation of almost €5.7bn.

Activity during the first half of the year remained solid in the UK and Ireland and the rest of western Europe, according to Kingspan.

Mr Murtagh said that despite Brexit, the company is seeing no unexpected reduction in demand.

He said the office market is cooling in London, but that was a normal cyclical decline rather than being impacted by Brexit.

Activity in traditional retail and the online retail sector remains resilient, he said.

Earlier this week, Amazon said it intends to build a huge warehouse in Bristol that will employ 1,000 people.

"The only weakness we expect in the UK over the next year is in access floors and office," said Mr Murtagh.

He said that a forecast overall slowdown economic activity in the UK is not evident yet.

"The pipeline is encouraging, with the exception of office," he added. "Quotations are very busy."

Mr Murtagh said he's not surprised that companies such as Amazon are making significant investments in the UK market despite the fact that Brexit is set to happen in 2019.

"It's about satisfying internal demand," he said.

Mr Murtagh added that Kingspan's recent investments in Mexico and Colombia are the "thin end of the wedge" in terms of its plans for the region.

Irish Independent

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