Britain must take a more positive view of its prospects, says boss of German giant

Steve Holland of Brenntag
Steve Holland of Brenntag
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THE boss of the world’s biggest chemical distribution firm said he plans to keep investing in its UK operations as Britain prepares for Brexit.

Steve Holland, the chief executive of German headquartered Brenntag, predicted that major global manufacturing firms will still be keen to establish operations in the UK after Britain leaves the European Union. Mr Holland, who was born in Bradford, made the comments as he visited Brenntag’s UK head office in Leeds.

Brenntag, which employs around 900 people in Britain, plans to invest £50m in the UK in the coming years.

Mr Holland told The Yorkshire Post: “The Leeds and Bradford area provides us with all the necessary skill sets that we need to drive the business in the UK.

He added: “We’re very happy to support the UK to grow its business even further by acquisitions, as well as investing in the infrastructure based in the UK.”

Brenntag is the global leader in its sector with a 5.9 per cent market share and sales of 10.5bn euros in 2016.

It employs around 15,000 staff in 74 countries. Brenntag UK and Ireland recorded revenue of £321m in 2016.

On the subject of Brexit, Mr Holland said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of the politics of all this.

“But, fundamentally, the UK is very important for overseas manufacturers. It’s a sophisticated market. It’s a market we as a company really believe in and that is why we’re investing.

“There is some amazing technology, some amazing manufacturing and some amazing innovation in the UK, which is really sought after by overseas buyers.”

Mr Holland said the UK must take a more positive view of its prospects.

He added: “As English people, we are not the first to shout out about great we are. I personally would like to see people shout a bit more about how successful the UK is and what we’ve got to offer.”

Mr Holland, who studied chemistry at Leeds University, became the CEO of Brenntag, which is based in Essen, Germany in 2011. Earlier in his career, he held senior roles at Hays Chemical Distribution and Albion Chemicals before he joined the Brenntag group board in 2007. Mr Holland said the UK business had a very strong market share and he wanted to see it develop its speciality chemicals portfolio, in areas that could improve cosmetics and personal care.

He added: “Where there are companies that meet that type of portfolio, and are attractive, we as a company will be very supportive of the UK in trying to develop those opportunities as they arise.”

Following a series of acquisitions, Brenntag’s UK group sales revenue now stands at around £500m.

The UK and Ireland business can trace its roots back to 1841, when the Glasgow-based Richard Smith Chemicals was established. The business grew through many acquisitions including Hays Chemicals, until in 2001 the company became Albion Chemicals.

In June 2006 Albion Chemicals was acquired by the global Brenntag Group. The UK business took on the Brenntag brand in 2009.

Its UK head office is now based at the Lawnswood Business Park in Leeds.