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The Reyrolle Story: 49 - A Leaner Reyrolle

Reyrolle, battling to survive, win a huge order in a new market.

Robert Owen continues his history of the huge Tyneside manufacturing concern.

To order a copy of Robert's book please click on http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reyrolle-Story-History-Co-Ltd/dp/1905295073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245678876&sr=1-1

After the economic strife of the Thatcher years and the major cut-backs and rationalisation of the early and mid-eighties, a much leaner Reyrolle business emerged looking for a new identity. With the home market static and the international market even more competitive as China, India and Korea entered the new global economy, there was an urgent need to find a new market. The Company had long since recognised the Middle East and, particularly, Saudi Arabia, as a possible area of growth. In 1983 a campaign was launched in an attempt to break into this market and establish credibility as a prerequisite for a possible order. A series of bids, with other companies, were made but none proved successful.

Feedback from these unsuccessful bids indicated that the electrical utilities in Saudi Arabia preferred a primary switchgear manufacturer to be the main contractor. Therefore, a new business unit - Reyrolle Projects led by Hugh Jackson - was formed to concentrate on building up the necessary skills in project management to carry out major contracting activities. By adopting this approach, 1987 brought a massive order for three substations, totalling over £100million, from Saudi Arabia.

"This is great news for NEI-Reyrolle and Hebburn" commented MD Andrew Perkins. The local AEU official, Joe Cellini, wasn't so optimistic, saying "It was a little ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy situation.''

Many observers thought that it was this order and other smaller orders received from Bangladesh and the C.E.G.B, that saved the Company from closure. Optimists even thought "that the Phoenix might rise from the ashes".

Winning work in Saudi Arabia, however, brought other unusual problems. In August 1990, as Reyrolle engineers worked on the three substations, Iraq invaded Kuwait and bombed Saudi Arabia. One of the substations was near the capital Riyadh, which was regularly hit by Iraq Scud missiles. Back home, a local press headline read "Families flee threatened Saudi towns", as Reyrolle and other companies brought home relatives of workers. A Company spokesman announced "Twenty engineers are still working in Saudi Arabia and emergency evacuation plans have been formulated in case of invasion by Iraq."

Three months later the war situation was little better and the Gazette reported "NEI/ Reyolle workers set to fly out of Gulf'. That was until a multi-national army forced an Iraq withdrawal and a cease-fire in March 1991. This allowed Reyrolle engineers to continue with their work.


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