ICL insists that it is much too early to look for any increased business in the Soviet Union, despite the fact that First Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev is talking openly about joint ventures with Western companies to manufacture the advanced equipment that the Union needs – and, more importantly, freedom for Western partners to repatriate profits. Onec the Soviet Union does get around to drawing up serious plans for new generation computer manufacture, ICL is exceptionally well-placed to play a key role, because it has maintained an office in Moscow through good times and bad, and key parts of the national administration are still supported by rapidly-ageing ICL 1900s, and even the odd RCA-derived ICL System 4. ICL says that it does have a long-term project to get more Soviet business, and hopes that Gorbachev’s ‘Glasnost’, or openness, policy will result in additional orders – but over the next few years rather than months. The Moscow office, supervised by a director for East European operations at Putney, doesn’t expect any immediate effect on trade – but the forthcoming visit of Mrs Thatcher to Moscow looks like a golden opportunity for the company to make a few pertinent points, and to seek some more tangible rewards for its patience that an long-service medal. ICL’s business looks healthy enough in several of the other Comecon countries, and it has offices in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary as well as the Soviet Union. The majority of its Eastern Bloc business in 1986 came from the Hungarians, Poles and Czechs – in the case of Czechoslovakia ICL reckons it took 50% of Western computer equipment imports, although it won’t break out any figures. In Jugoslavia – outside Comecon but widely seen as a part of the Eastern Bloc despite its non-aligned status, its agent, Mladost, integrates ICL kit from sub-assemblies shipped from the UK in order to comply with Jugoslavia’s import regulations. ICL’s Jugoslavian business these days is lead by point-of-sale terminals, where it claims to be the market leader.
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