Oerlikon CEO Replaced After Swinging to Full-Year Loss

  • Brice Koch leaves after two years at helm of machine maker
  • Roland Fischer is third CEO since 2013; hired for new strategy

OC Oerlikon Corp AG named former Siemens AG manager Roland Fischer as chief executive officer - its third in as many years - to replace Brice Koch after the Swiss maker of textile machinery swung to a loss.

Fischer, who was head of Siemens’s power-and-gas division and starts in his new role immediately, is charged with advancing the company’s “new strategic direction,” the Pfaeffikon, Switzerland-based company said Tuesday in a statement. Oerlikon made a net loss of 418 million Swiss francs ($419 million) compared with a profit of 202 million francs in 2014.

Oerlikon, whose main shareholder is Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova Group, has been struggling with Chinese overcapacity of man-made fiber machines as well as a slump in markets for its driving systems. The appointment of a new CEO marks a period of top management upheaval. Michael Buscher left the helm abruptly in March 2013 to be replaced in January, 2014 by Koch, who was formerly from ABB Ltd. and will have stayed for just over two years.

“We launched a streamlining process. We’re becoming a more pure-play company. We’re now reaching the next stage in development,” Chairman Michael Suess said at an investor conference. Koch was “not the right man” for the change, he said.

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Oerlikon closed 2 percent lower at 9.60 francs in Zurich trading after dropping as much as 5.6 percent, the most in three months. The company has a market capitalization of 3.3 billion francs.

Oerlikon posted a fourth-quarter loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization from continuing operations of 15 million francs compared with a profit of 124 million francs in the year-earlier quarter. Sales fell 16 percent to 597 million francs.

The Swiss manufacturer wants to be the biggest or second-biggest in all its businesses, which is currently not the case for the so-called Drive Systems unit, Suess said.

That business, which makes gears and assemblies for cars as well as agricultural and construction machinery, is less of a “core element” than the others and will be reorganized before consideration begins of what to do with it, he said.

Oerlikon proposed re-electing Suess as well as Gerhard Pegam and Hans Ziegler to the board of directors at the annual shareholder meeting on April 5, the company said. The remaining three members have decided not to stand for re-election and the Swiss company will announce nominations in the invitation to the meeting.

Suess worked with Fischer during his own time at Siemens, where he headed Siemens’s energy operations until May 2014.

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