Melrose to break up one of UK’s oldest engineers GKN

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Melrose Industries, the turnaround specialist that owns British engineer GKN, plans to spin off the unit’s automotive division and retain its aerospace arm.

GKN supplies airframe structures and engine components for aerospace and defense companies including Airbus and Rolls-Royce and parts like driveline systems to Volkswagen and other major carmakers.

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Here is a timeline of GKN, which was founded by merchants and iron-masters 263 years ago in a village in South Wales.

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September 1759

GKN’s predecessor, Dowlais Ironworks Co, was founded by Thomas Lewis in Dowlais, near Merthyr Tydfil

April 1767

Dowlais’ association with the Guests, a prominent British business family, begins as coal merchant John Guest appointed works manager of the business


Guest’s grandson Sir Josiah John Guest takes over the running of the company

April 1848

GKN survives arguably its closest shave with liquidation, as a looming lease expiry whose terms threatened to make Dowlais Ironworks’ operations unviable was replaced with a new favorable agreement barely 10 days before the lease expiry


Dowlais becomes the first British company to acquire license to produce steel using the Bessemer process, the first inexpensive process for mass production of steel from molten pig iron

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July 1900

Dowlais combines with Patent Nut & Bolt Company (PNB) to form Guest, Keen & Co


Group acquires Nettlefolds Ltd and the enlarged company became Guest, Keen & Nettlefolds


Britain’s Labour government begins nationalizing the steel industry, shortly after GKN emerged from the Second World War as the country’s biggest steel producer


The government of Harold Wilson furthers nationalization policies, leading GKN into a gradual withdrawal from the steel industry over the next two decades and encouraging it to explore new business avenues


As part of GKN’s move to expand in the automotive sector, Chairman Raymond Brookes buys the Birfield automotive components group

Late 1980s

Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds officially changes name to GKN Plc, and in 1988 acquires stake in British helicopter and aerospace manufacturer Westland Plc

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September 2012

Group secures approval to purchase Volvo’s aerospace unit for $1.01 billion

July 2015

GKN agrees to acquire the Netherlands-based Fokker Technologies for $781 million

October 2017

GKN reportedly considers splitting into two listed companies

November 2017

GKN CEO Kevin Cummings steps down after just two months at the helm after its aerospace division took a large writedown

January 2018

Melrose makes takeover offer for GKN, which company rejects

March 2018

As bid battle for GKN heats up, Melrose and U.S. firm Dana Inc sweeten proposals

March 2018

Melrose narrowly clinched an $11 billion takeover of GKN after a tough three-month battle for control of the company


Melrose forced to restructure aerospace division and cut jobs, as operations took a hit from the coronavirus crisis


Chip shortage hits automotive supply chain hard even as sales bounce back from pandemic lows on recovery in demand for cars and powder metals

September 2022

Melrose says it would separate its GKN Automotive and GKN Powder Metallurgy units and list them as a separate independent business

(SOURCES: Company’s website and statements, Reuters reporting) (Reporting by Muhammed Husain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)



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