Wednesday, 17 July 2019

ABB seeks new chief executive after Ulrich’s surprise move

ZURICH: ABB Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer has quit the Swiss engineering group in a surprise move for a company which is in the midst of a strategic overhaul to focus more on digital industries.

Chairman Peter Voser will take charge at ABB, which is selling its Power Grids business to Japan’s Hitachi in an $11 billion deal and seeking to become more of an industrial automation company.

Spiesshofer agreed with the board to step down from the post he has held for the last five and half years and a search has begun for a successor, ABB said, without giving any reason for the departure.

During his tenure Spiesshofer positioned ABB towards more profitable areas like industrial automation and robotics, buying companies like Austria’s Bernecker & Rainer and General Electric’s industrial solutions business.

But Spiesshofer’s exit follows the apparent lack of investor enthusiasm for the former management consultant whose overhauls failed to revitalise ABB’s shares, which gained 4 percent in early trade on news of his departure to touch a six-month high.

ABB’s stock has lost 6.5 percent since Spiesshofer took over in September 2013, trailing rivals like Germany’s Siemens which have gained nearly 19 percent in the same time.

Patience appears to have worn thin when major strategy u-turns like the decision to offload Power Grids to Hitachi last December failed to boost the stock, which has languished well below the 35 franc level Spiesshofer promised to reach.

Investor AB, ABB’s largest shareholder, said the time was ripe for a change of leadership.

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