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The Rupp Report

The Rupp Report: Famous Textile Labels For Sale

Jürg Rupp, Executive Editor

Rumors have been in the marketplace for many weeks and months that Oerlikon Textile is for sale and even has been sold. Since 2006, the Oerlikon Group has been a focus of attention as a result of some financial transactions, and the Board of Directors has changed again and again. However, today, the rumors are everywhere, and the Rupp Report has tried to shed light on the whole story.

Valuable Textile Machinery Labels
Many readers of the Rupp Report recognize that Schlafhorst, Saurer, or Barmag have been some of the most valuable brands in the global textile machinery industry. Years ago, under the leadership of Swiss tycoon Tito Tettamanti, Saurer started to build a conglomerate of companies under the red umbrella of Saurer. The price battles in the spinning sector with Rieter were tough; a "Swiss Textile Machinery Ltd." was expected here and there. Nothing happened, but Tettamanti left the Saurer ship.

Synergies Are Expected
The next chapter was written when Viennese speculators Georg Stumpf and Ronny Pecik formed the Oerlikon Group. On Sept. 26, 2006, a press release announced that "the Oerlikon Group has purchased about 24.1 percent of the share capital in Saurer [3.5 million shares]." "Saurer and Oerlikon's business areas are an excellent combination," said Georg Stumpf, chairman of the board. And CEO Thomas Limberger added: "They are both mechanical engineering and plant construction companies with similar value chains. This means that we will be able to realize a number of synergies." This chapter ended with all the famous labels under the (still red) umbrella of Switzerland-based OC Oerlikon Management AG, in a Germany-based subsidiary called Oerlikon Textile GmbH. The press release also mentioned: "The transaction will be financed with a combination of available cash and debt financing. The management expects a positive financial effect for the Oerlikon shareholders."

Members For Sale
However, the financial situation became worse, and the Group was in the midst of the turmoil with financial problems. Oerlikon Textile was regrouped and reshaped again. On Oct. 10, 2008, Oerlikon Schlafhorst consolidated its three locations, Mönchengladbach, Übach-Palenberg and Ebersbach, within the scope of the current restructuring program, "Simplify Oerlikon Textile," in Übach-Palenberg. However, things went bad and OC Oerlikon started to sell. Two weeks later, on October 27, Oerlikon Optics was sold. "We are consequently following up on our strategy to streamline the Oerlikon portfolio," said Dr. Uwe Krüger, CEO of OC Oerlikon. This was not good news for the whole group.

The sellout went on one month later: the US business of Oerlikon Optics was sold also for the same reason: streamlining the portfolio. On Jan. 26, 2009, OC Oerlikon announced it would sell its Esec Business Unit. Same reason again: "Oerlikon has significantly reduced its exposure to the cyclical semiconductor market and can focus on its core competence," Krüger said. The deal was closed in early April.

Oerlikon Textile For Sale?
Now it was time to get the responsible people of Oerlikon Textile, such as CEO Dr. Carsten Voigtländer, on the phone to get an appropriate answer to the question of what is right and what is wrong. To our surprise, we were told that Dr. Voigtländer left the company some months ago! So the next step was to call the headquarters of OC Oerlikon in Switzerland. The Rupp Report asked two questions: Has Oerlikon Textiles been sold, and is Dr. Voigtländer still with the company?

The answers were no and no. Voigtländer left the company at the end of March, a fact hidden in a very long press release, which stated: "To master the current market situation and the challenges of further deteriorating markets, Management defined three major work streams as top priorities for 2009:

"The first area focuses on restructuring and contingency measures and includes cost-cutting programs, particularly at Oerlikon Textile and Oerlikon Drive Systems. In the new set up, each Business Unit of Oerlikon Textile focuses on profitable market segments as individual responsibilities. In mutual consent and respect, it was decided that the former segment CEO Dr. Carsten Voigtländer will leave the company as of 31 March. The Business Unit heads of Oerlikon Textile will report directly to the COO of Oerlikon Group, Thomas Babacan."

And has Oerlikon Textile now been sold or not? No, it has not. However, Oerlikon Textile is now a "non-core asset," and OC Oerlikon is open to selling it. This fact is contrary to what Voigtländer told Textile World in an exclusive interview last year (See "Oerlikon Textile: Focused On The Future," www.TextileWorld.com, July/August 2008). He mentioned that the portfolio of the textile group members is focusing on the idea to be a "complete supplier" for the textile industry, and said "the basic idea is to cover the textile value-added chain."

And now this -- the last question was obvious: Is it possible to buy selected companies of the textile division or only all of them together? "We leave open every option," was the answer.

Epilogue
Since the year 2007, many reports have been published announcing changing owners and management of the Oerlikon Group. A few weeks before ITMA 2007 in Munich, the Rupp Report raised the question: Will these financial somersaults with new owners not jeopardize the well-known textile brands? This was heavily denied by Oerlikon people in lively discussions at ITMA. Now, two years later, the technocrats did their job: Textiles is not a core competence of the Oerlikon Group anymore. Let's hope the brands will not be damaged in this unfortunate process.

July 21, 2009

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