“The change at the top of Centrotec made the first quarter of 2014 an unusually turbulent one.” These were the words with which Guido A Krass (left), founder and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of German Centrotec Sustainable, started the annual shareholders´ meeting in Brilon, central Germany, on 20 May 2014. The long-term Chairman of the Management Board, Dr Gert-Jan Huisman, resigned with immediate effect in April 2014, to make room for the new management team of Dr Christoph Traxler (middle) and Dr Thomas Kneip, both with long-term experiences in leading positions within the Centrotec Group. Krass justified the parting with Huisman with different views on the company’s business policy, in particular regarding the future of the gas flue systems segment. “It was a friendly, but expensive resignation,” Krass said. Huisman received EUR 1 million in termination pay.
With its fully owned subsidiary Wolf Heiztechnik, the Centrotec Group is the fourth largest collector manufacturer on the German market after Bosch, Viessmann and Vaillant. The group offers a wide variety of products under different brand names for heating and climate control, such as condensing boilers, heat pumps, air-conditioning and ventilation units, biomass boilers and a compact unit for highly efficient buildings. Centrotec is the only stock-market-listed manufacturer and supplier in this field in Europe.
Recovery of the building market in Europe in 2014
The financial figures for 2013 presented at the shareholders’ meeting show a successful last year. Although the turnover of EUR 525.4 million was 1.6 % lower than in the previous year, earnings after taxes (EAT) improved by 7.5 % to EUR 24 million. “We have increased the cost-efficiency of our gas flue products by taking products with low margins off the portfolio,” Kneip explained in his business presentation. The managing director expects a recovery of the building market in Europe in 2014, although the economist is not sure whether Centrotec will already profit from it this year. “Our heating systems are always added late in construction. So, if more clients start building new homes in key European markets this year, the heating system may not be installed before 2015,” Kneip said. Regarding the current year, the managing director set the goal of increasing international business and becoming less dependent on the German market.
Wolf, as the major subsidiary in the segment of solar technology and climate systems, has sales offices in France, Spain, Poland, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy. The company produced 159,000 m² of flat plate collectors in Mainburg, in the south of Germany, in 2012. Centrotec also purchased a 38 % stake in German Fresnel collector manufacturer Industrial Solar in 2011. “The group investigates the possibility of opening up new international markets through local production capacities,” the 2013 business report says in the chapter Report on Expected Developments. However, this is a general statement about the entire product range, not one directly about solar.
Centrotec Sustainable and its subsidiaries and sales partners are present in about 50 different countries worldwide. The group, which has 3,035 staff, is engaged in three different product segments: Climate Systems, which make up 73 % of total turnover, Gas Flue Systems, which make up 19 %, and Medical Technology & Engineering Plastics, which have a share of 8 % in total turnover and used to be the core business of the company that Krass founded in 1993. Today, Guido A Krass and his family own more than 50 % of Centrotec’s shares.