Few executives have seized the business opportunities opened up by the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe as aggressively as Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer, the chief executive of Austria's OMV Group. In the two years since he landed the top management job at the energy company, which produces and distributes oil and gas, the 53-year old OMV veteran has made a series of acquisitions in the Danube Valley. His bold aim is to double OMV's 2001 market share in the region to 20% by 2008. "As a result of organic growth and acquisitions, we're well on our way," he says.
The deals started almost as soon as Ruttenstorfer moved up to the top spot at OMV. In 2002 he bought a 25.1% stake in Rompetrol Group, the largest privately owned oil company in Romania. The following year he snapped up 313 filling stations in Bavaria; the Avanti gas-station network in Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria; and a 45% stake in Germany's Bayernoil refinery network. Ruttenstorfer's strategy is paying off. Net profits in 2003 surged 22%, to $468 million.
Of course, Ruttenstorfer has also lost a few to rival integrated oil and gas companies in Eastern Europe. Last year, Hungary's MOL snapped up Croatia's INA. This year the Czech Republic's Unipetrol was acquired by Poland's PKN Orlen. OMV was outbid in both cases. "Competition in the region is tough," Ruttenstorfer concedes. But he shrugs off such setbacks, refusing to pay what he considers inflated prices. "You can make good profits and boost shareholder value even when you're investing heavily," he says. Average returns on his recent deals are 13%.
Ruttenstorfer started at OMV in 1976 as a public-relations trainee and has worked there ever since, except for a stint as Austria's Finance Minister from 1997 to 2000. He says he doesn't have much spare time, and when he does he likes to spend it with his family -- he has a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. But the lack of free time doesn't bother him: His "favorite recreation is dealmaking. Later this year, he hopes to get his hands on Petrom, an oil and gas group that Romania is privatizing. That would take him one more step toward that all-important 2008 target.