Grenfell Inquiry: Flammable Grenfell cladding panels ‘made more profit than fire-resistant ones’

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The flammable cladding panels used on Grenfell Tower made their manufacturer around a third more in profit than the fire-resistant alternative, an inquiry has heard.

Arconic made and sold the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen with a poly-ethylene core (PE) that was mounted on the west London building.

They also made a fire-resistant cored (FR) alternative.

Documents shown to the inquiry on Wednesday showed that the company – formerly known as Alcoa – had a profit margin of around 5-6 euro for every square metre of FR material it sold around the time of the Grenfell project.

This margin increased to 7-8 euro per square metre of the PE product.

The figures – from the witness statement of Arconic’s president Claude Schmidt – were revealed as the company’s former UK sales manager, Deborah French, gave evidence for the second day.

She told lawyers: “I was not ever party to any of the profit that they were making on any of the products.

“The only information I was working on was the overall square metre price for the customer, I was not party to any of that.”

When asked by Richard Millett QC “you didn’t know which was the more profitable in the range of the products you were selling?” Ms French added: “No, definitely not.”

Ms French admitted an email was “too heavy on the sales side” when she told customers Arconic would continue to work with the PE product despite fires in the United Arab Emirates in buildings that used PE products.

She told the hearing that there were some enquiries from customers following blazes in 2012 and 2013.

In an email sent in May 2013 fabricators were told: “On all projects we are able to follow what type of project is being designed/developed and then offer the right specification including the core.”

Ms French said that Arconic “can control and understand what core is being used in all products due to the controlled supply route we have.”

In a clarification in her witness statement to the inquiry Ms French “did not proactively check what core had been ordered for any particular project and whether that core complied with Building Regulations or any other legislation”.

Reflecting on the email from 2013, Ms French said: “Reading back on it now it was not the right thing to put in there and it was very heavy in terms of the wording it was too heavy on the sales side to basically give customers some comfort that we were still able to continue with what we were doing.

“It was a document that was sent to give them some reassurances that the business was comfortable with offering the materials that we were offering and that it was all still okay to use and supply.”

Ms French denied deliberately giving false information but added: “In the context of what we’re looking at now it wasn’t the right thing to have sent.”

The inquiry continues.