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Edwards Boss Taylor Primed For Surprise Exit

(c) Sky News 2013

One of Britain's biggest manufacturers is poised to announce a leadership shake-up less than a year after it floated on the American stock exchange Nasdaq.

I understand from Wall Street sources that Matthew Taylor, chief executive of Edwards, a leading manufacturer of vacuum pump technology, is preparing to step down.

Mr Taylor's departure could be announced as soon as Edwards' full-year results later this week.

His exit will surprise investors, since he arrived at Edwards only in May 2010, and has a strong record as a senior industrialist.

Before joining Crawley-headquartered Edwards, Mr Taylor was the chief executive of JCB, Britain's biggest manufacturer of earth-moving equipment.

Prior to that, he spent more than two decades at Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F - news) , a stint which included three years as managing director of Jaguar Land Rover.

Edwards opted for a listing on Nasdaq over London last year after concluding that it would achieve a higher rating for its shares if it went to the US.

A supplier of vacuum pumps to the world's largest semiconductor manufacturers, Edwards was spun out of the BOC gases group after it was acquired by Linde (Berlin: LIN.BE - news) , a German rival, in 2006.

Its products are also used in flat-screen televisions and solar cells.

Edwards employs more than 3000 people around the world, although it has shifted some jobs from the UK to lower-cost manufacturing sites overseas, including in Asia.

The company is now chaired by Nick Rose, a former finance director of Diageo (LSE: DGE.L - news) , the drinks company, who is on the boards of BAE Systems (LSE: BA.L - news) , BT (LSE: BT-A.L - news) and Williams Grand Prix Holdings, the owner of the Formula One team.

It is understood that Mr Taylor's successor is likely to be announced at the same time as his departure.

Candidates to take over could include Jim Gentilcore, who already sits on the board of Edwards as an independent non-executive director, as well as executives from outside the company.

Large chunks of Edwards' shares are still held by CCMP Capital and Unitas, the two private equity firms which acquired Edwards from BOC. The company has a market value of just over $800m (£527m).

Edwards could not be reached for comment.