Bertrandt AG, the German company that helped bring Rolls-Royce’s Ghost and the newest version of Volkswagen AG’s Golf to the road, says it sees no boundaries to growth after record first-quarter sales.
The company, which almost doubled its workforce to more than 7,000 over the past four years, will increase investments this year on workspaces and tools, Chief Executive Officer Dietmar Bichler said in an interview. Demand for model variants and a push for reduced auto emissions may help Bertrandt beat a sales record set in the year ended September 2008, he said.
“I don’t see a limit. The market volume is there and we’ll try to get into position as early as possible,” Bichler said in his office in Ehningen, a German town near Stuttgart, where Daimler AG and Porsche SE are based. “We’re trying to develop upward in terms of operations and in terms of financial figures.”
Bertrandt, whose stock was the second-best performer in Germany’s SDAX Performance Index in 2010 with a 152 percent jump, helps almost all European carmakers and major suppliers by developing, testing and prototyping anything from parts to entire vehicles as well as managing the interaction between parts makers and car manufacturers. Its revenue jumped 12 percent to 429 million euros ($582 million) in the 12 months ended September.
The stock rose 20 cents, or 0.4 percent, to 56.20 euros as of 9:27 a.m. in Frankfurt trading, giving the company a market value of about 570 million euros.
In recent projects, the company coordinated the development of the interior lighting for VW’s Audi A8, developed the doors for the Golf VI and helped design the instrument panels for Renault SA’s Scenic compact cars.
Bertrandt takes parameters such as size and weight from a manufacturer to create computer models as well as physical ones to see how they fit with the customer’s ideas. Many of those services could be handled by the carmakers themselves, but they often choose to outsource tasks to be able to more flexibly manage capacities. Bertrandt’s other, newer areas of operation include the aviation industry and services for wind turbines, medical equipment and machinery.
“It’s a real pearl, one that’s been getting more and more attention recently but it’s still worth more than one look,” said Juergen Pieper, an analyst at Bankhaus Metzler in Frankfurt who recommends buying the shares and raised his share-price estimate by 10 percent to 66 euros on Feb. 11.
Of the six analysts who cover the stock and who are tracked by Bloomberg, three recommend buying, two say hold and one advises selling.
Grammer AG, a German maker of seats for vehicles, was the best performer on the SDAX last year.
Porsche is Bertrandt’s largest shareholder with a 25 percent stake. Bichler, who took part in a management buyout in 1993, has an 8 percent holding.
Porsche sees its stake in Bertrandt as a financial investment and doesn’t give special treatment to the company, said Dirk Erat, a spokesman for the sports-car maker. There is currently no plan to alter the stake, he said.
Sales spurts at Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit, VW’s Audi and Rolls-Royce owner Bayerische Motoren Werke AG boosted Bertrandt’s first-quarter revenue 39 percent to a record of 125.9 million euros, while net income jumped 64 percent to 8.6 million euros, the company said this week. Bichler declined to give forecasts for full-year earnings and investments.
Working with competing carmakers means ongoing projects have to be shielded from third parties to exclude the risk of technology leaks, Bichler said. The Ehningen site is split up into various compartments that can obscure the materials, and company staff is forbidden from entering certain areas.
“We rely on discretion, that’s clear, because it’s a small field,” the CEO said. “ The customer should take center stage.”
Most of Bertrandt’s 35 locations are placed close to plants or offices of major car manufacturers to facilitate exchanges during projects. Outside of Europe, the company has offices in Detroit, and has set up partnerships in Asia. Unlike Daimler and BMW, which have shifted facilities to growth markets including China, Bichler says as a developer, Bertrandt has little need to expand there.
“The development is clearly focused here,” he said in the Feb. 14 interview. “When it comes to production, German manufacturers are building more capacity in China, but in development services we don’t see that to such an extent.”
Bertrandt was founded in 1974 by Harry Bertrandt.