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The FTSE 100’s Four Female Bosses

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In September 2012 I profiled the FTSE 100’s then four female CEOs, Cynthia Carroll at Anglo American, Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, Angela Ahrendts at Burberry (LSE: BRBY) and Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco (LSE: IMT) (NASDAQOTH: ITYBY.US).

What a difference a year makes! Ms Scardino has retired, Ms Carroll was forced out and Ms Ahrendts has found herself a new job. But we still have four FTSE 100 female CEOs — just.

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Health

Angela Ahrendts is leaving Burberry in rude health. Since 2006 she has restored the brand’s cachet and doubled profits. Growth is being driven by investment in under-penetrated markets and in retail distribution.  

The board is appointing long-time Chief Creative Officer Christopher Bailey to the post of ‘Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer’, admitting he will be an ‘unconventional’ CEO. If I were a Burberry shareholder I’d worry Mr Bailey will take on too much if he wants to function as a proper CEO, or the company will suffer from management-by-committee if he doesn’t.

Tough

Alison Cooper is having a tougher time at Imperial. Its shares have underperformed the sector, suffering from Imperial’s geographic skew. It’s strong in developed markets that are economically weak (Southern Europe), and weak in emerging markets where growth is stronger. But Ms Cooper’s background — a former accountant who worked in finance, operations and regional management roles at Imperial — stands her in good stead.

She has recently restructured the company to separate growth markets where investment in brands and market share will be concentrated, and revenue markets where cash will be milked.

Debut

Carolyn McCall is CEO of easyJet (LSE: EZJ), which joined the FTSE 100 in March. It had a great debut, with a 50% rise in full-year profits and a special dividend. Ms McCall is credited with bolstering easyJet’s operational performance and punctuality and extending its market to business passengers.

A recovering economy should further help easyJet’s performance in the near-term but the adage that the best way to make a small fortune in the airline business is to start with a large one should serve to keep investors vigilant.

Challenge

Liv Garfield will become CEO of water utility Severn Trent (LSE: SVT) in the spring. She takes on a difficult challenge, with Severn Trent’s shares trading 17% below the recently-rejected offer price of £22 and the water sector the next target of politicians. She steered the £2.5bn roll-out of fibre optic cable in her previous role as head of BT‘s Openreach, but as the CEOs of the energy companies are discovering, the ability to manage public opinion may be the most valuable quality.

Though Ms Ahrendts leaves the female CEO club shortly after Ms Garfield joins, promotion of the Royal Mail into the FTSE would see its CEO Moya Greene keep their number at four.

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> Tony owns shares in Imperial but no other shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Burberry.

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