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Transparency comes to family businesses

By David Bain

Family businesses are opening up their books for scrutiny – or at least two are: Ikea and Schaeffler, writes David Bain. 

Swedish Ikea, one of the more secretive family businesses, decided to publicly disclosed its profit for the first time in its 67-year history.

Mikael Ohlsson, Ikea's chief executive, said in early October that the decision was taken in response to demands from employees and suppliers for more information.

The group, privately owned by one of the world's largest foundations, said that it had made net profits of €2.5 billion in 2009, up 11.3% from the year before in spite of the downturn in consumer spending. 

Meanwhile, Schaeffler, the German manufacturer, disclosed its first set of interim results to the outside world.

Owned by Elisabeth Schaeffler (pictured) and her son Georg Schaeffler (pictured), the German auto parts specialist has been weighed down by huge levels of debt linked to its merger with Continental, the tire manufacturer. First half 2010 sales rose 31% year-on-year to €4.6 billion. But the group made an overall loss of €260 million due to a €396 million writedown.

The publication of such comparatively detailed results highlights the group's move towards courting outside investors as it attempts to further bring its financial situation under control. In August, the group announced it was setting up its first dedicated investor relations unit.

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