Slow Boil For Abb In The U.S.

While scouting the U.S. for acquisitions in the late 1980s, ABB Chief Executive Officer Percy Barnevik couldn't help noticing the 30- to 40-year-old boilers still in service at many American electric utilities. It seemed to be a rare opportunity for the newly formed Swiss-Swedish ABB Asea Brown Boveri (Holding) Ltd., the result of a merger of two European engineering companies. Barnevik went on a spending spree, paying more than $2.3 billion in 1989 for Combustion Engineering Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s electrical-transmission-equipment unit. He aimed to have a one-stop shop ready to do business once the utilities started buying again.

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