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ABB to Keep Power Grids Unit Despite Calls for Spin Off

ABB to Keep Power Grids Unit Despite Calls for Spin Off

ZURICH, Switzerland — ABB today launched Stage 3 of its Next Level strategy to unlock value for customers and shareholders. The core elements of this include: shaping ABB’s divisions into four market-leading, entrepreneurial units, including continuing to transform the Power Grids division under ABB’s ownership; realizing ABB’s full digital potential; accelerating momentum in operational excellence; and strengthening ABB’s brand.

ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said, “Over the last two years, ABB has become faster, leaner and more efficient. We have continuously improved margins and further strengthened our cash generation. In Stage 3 of our Next Level strategy, we are building on our successful transformation momentum and strengthening our position as a pioneering technology leader and global digital champion. With our four simplified, market-leading, entrepreneurial businesses, combined with “ABB Ability”, we address customers’ needs in the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions in a more focused and agile way.”

Peter Voser, chairman of ABB’s Board of Directors, said, “The successful execution of our Next Level strategy to date has led to significantly improved operational and financial performance and a more externally focused, simpler ABB. The entire board worked with the management and external advisors on all elements of Stage 3, which will unlock value for customers and all shareholders while ensuring the company’s long-term success. The continued transformation of our Power Grids division under ABB’s management is the best of all carefully assessed options for shareholders. We firmly support the management team and the action plan presented today.”

Driving growth in four market-leading entrepreneurial divisions

ABB is shaping and focusing its divisional structure into four market-leading divisions: Electrification Products, Robotics and Motion, Industrial Automation and Power Grids, effective January 1, 2017. The divisions will be empowered as entrepreneurial units within ABB, reflected in an enhancement of its performance and compensation model focusing on individual accountability and responsibility. They benefit from sales collaboration orchestrated by regions and countries as well as from the group-wide digital offering; ABB’s leading G&A structure and costs; common supply chain management; and corporate research centers. ABB will continue to strengthen its divisions through active portfolio management. This includes pursuing strategic additions, transforming business models and pruning non-core businesses.

“Entrepreneurial spirit is the base for our future operating model,” said Spiesshofer. “Our four market-leading businesses, led by empowered entrepreneurs, will drive sustainable value creation, supported by regions and Group oxygen such as ABB Ability and our leading G&A cost level.”

Electrification Products

Electrification Products (EP) will be the partner of choice for electrification of all consumption points.

By bringing together all electrification components, mainly by transferring businesses from the existing Discrete Automation and Motion (DM) division, EP will be the global #2 in that segment, offering a one-stop shop for customers.

The electric vehicle charging, solar, and power quality businesses will be transferred from the DM division to serve as growth platforms within the Electrification Products division. The necessary investment to continue the growth momentum of these businesses will initially have a dampening impact on the division’s profit margin.

The growth of power consumption is outpacing overall energy consumption, as more people have access to electricity and new forms of electricity consumption, such as e-vehicle charging, are driving demand. There are significant opportunities to digitalize and innovate around our current offerings.

Robotics and Motion

Robotics and Motion will be the partner of choice for robotics and intelligent motion solutions.

ABB’s leading offering in industrial motors and drives as well as its strongly performing robotics business are the building blocks of this newly shaped division which succeeds the former Discrete Automation and Motion division.

By focusing on the fast-growing robotics market and leveraging ABB’s technology platform and global scale, the company is ideally positioned to move from its current #2 position in robotics to #1 in this highly attractive market. ABB will benefit from its strong position in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, its global reach and service platforms.

ABB will continue to invest in and shape its #1 position in industrial motors and drives by focusing on fast-growing segments and moving into light industry and emerging growth areas like Asia.

Intelligent services and a leading digital offering are already a strong pillar of the division’s performance and open significant growth opportunities. ABB will strengthen divisional profitability through continued focus on operational excellence and value chain optimization.

Industrial Automation

Industrial Automation will be the partner of choice for industrial automation.

This division succeeds the former Process Automation division.

ABB will drive digitalization across industry sectors, building on its #1 position in process control through software and services. ABB has a unique combination of domain expertise that allows it to master the control room in a wide range of industries such as pharmaceuticals, mining, shipping and oil & gas. By focusing on growing segments and bringing together maintenance, operation and control, ABB will drive penetration of strongholds and create differentiation for customers.

Power Grids

Power Grids will be the partner of choice for stronger, smarter and greener grids.

Following a comprehensive strategic portfolio review, the Board and Executive Committee of ABB have concluded that the transformation of Power Grids under ABB ownership will unlock maximum shareholder value compared to other ownership options such as sale, IPO, spin-off or joint venture.

Key factors in the decision-making process included market attractiveness, the existing and future product offerings, business model opportunities and best ownership, as well as all alternative value creation options for ABB shareholders. This review included independent analyses from McKinsey and independent financial advice from Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.

The division, which is #1 globally, will take advantage of the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. These are creating significant demand for Power Grids’ products, systems, software and services, and support the portfolio shift towards digitalization.

To realize the full potential of the division and continue the ongoing transformation, “Power Up,” a massive program covering key aspects of the business, was introduced today. It will drive growth and enhance earnings accretion by focusing on core operational strengths and high growth segments as well as digitally enabled services and software.

A key element of the division’s ongoing transformation is the de-risking of the business model and tapping of growth opportunities through two strategic partnerships announced today – with Fluor for large electrical substations, and Aibel for offshore wind connections. Both partnerships combine ABB’s market leadership in power technologies with the respective partner’s expertise – Fluor’s in managing large engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projects, and Aibel’s in offshore wind projects.

Another key element is ABB’s pruning of niche non-core businesses such as the recently announced sale of ABB’s cable business to NKT cables while preserving access to technology through a strategic partnership.

As a consequence of the transformation, ABB is raising the operational EBITA margin target corridor for the division from 8-12% to 10-14%, effective 2018.

“In our strategic portfolio review we have listened carefully to all stakeholders and all expressed views. After a very thorough and detailed process, supported by leading advisors, we have concluded that the continued transformation of Power Grids under ABB’s ownership creates the highest value for our shareholders and customers. Building on the transformation success and momentum to date, the Power Grids division is ideally positioned within ABB to drive long-term, profitable growth during the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions and is an integral part of our offering,” Spiesshofer said.

Quantum leap in digital with ABB AbilityTM

ABB is a hidden digital champion today. It is ideally positioned to win in the digital space with new and existing end-to-end digital solutions that build on the intelligent cloud and close the loop with connected devices. ABB will use its profound knowledge of its customers’ domains to plan, build and operate a unique digital offering which will deliver true operational differentiation for customers.

The newly launched ABB Ability offering combines ABB’s portfolio of digital solutions and services across all customer segments, cementing the group’s leading position in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and support the competitiveness of ABB’s four entrepreneurial divisions.

ABB today announced a far-reaching strategic partnership with Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, to develop next-generation digital solutions on an integrated cloud platform. Customers will benefit from the unique combination of ABB’s deep domain knowledge and extensive portfolio of industrial solutions and Microsoft’s Azure intelligent cloud as well as B2B engineering competence. Together, the partners will drive digital transformation in customer segments across ABB’s businesses such as robotics, marine and e-mobility.

“This partnership will provide unique benefits to our customers in utilities, industry, transport & infrastructure, building on the combined strength of Microsoft and ABB,” said Spiesshofer. “Building on ABB’s installed base of more than 70 million connected devices and more than 70,000 installed control systems, the next step is to develop one of the world’s largest industrial cloud platforms.”

ABB’s digital transformation will be led by Guido Jouret, a pioneer in the Internet of Things, who began his role as Chief Digital Officer, reporting directly to the CEO, on October 1, 2016.

Strengthening the global ABB brand

ABB will adopt a single corporate brand, consolidating all its brands around the world under one umbrella. ABB’s portfolio of companies will be unified, showcasing the full breadth and depth of the company’s global offering under one master brand. This transition is expected to take up to two years.

The unified brand plays a key part in realizing the value potential of ABB’s digital offering, as it increases customer loyalty, price premiums and purchase probability. One master brand allows ABB to better present its strategy to relevant stakeholders, emphasizes the Group’s customer-first, digital-first thinking and makes it easier to interact with existing and future customers.

The brand will feature design elements intended to clearly articulate ABB’s vision, direction and unique market position to customers, shareholders, employees and all other stakeholders. ABB’s heritage as a pioneering technology leader and the three focus areas of its Next Level strategy are reflected in its new brand promise: “Let’s write the future. Together.”TM

Accelerating momentum in operational excellence

ABB continues to build on its existing momentum and is further accelerating its operational excellence.

The company’s white-collar productivity savings program has outperformed expectations since its launch last year. As a result, ABB has increased the program’s cost reduction target by 30% to $1.3 billion. ABB will achieve these additional savings within the initially announced timeframe and with unchanged restructuring and implementation costs. ABB is continuing its regular cost-savings programs, leveraging operational excellence and world-class supply chain management to achieve savings equivalent to 3-5% of cost of sales each year.

ABB reaffirms the target of its 1,000-day working capital program to free up approximately $2 billion by the end of 2017. The program is well on track and focuses on improving inventory management by optimizing the entire value chain, from product design to manufacturing, and by optimizing other net working capital measures.

The Group reaffirms its 2015-2020 financial targets as laid out below.

ABB Next Level – 2015-2020 targets2

Revenue growth3


Operational EBITA %4


Operational EPS growth CAGR5


Free cash flow conversion to net income


Cash return on investment %6


Operational EBITA % – 2015-2020 divisional targets

Electrification Products


Robotics and Motion


Industrial Automation


Power Grids


*The margin target for Power Grids will be in effect as of Jan. 1, 2018.

Capital allocation

ABB today announced its plans for a new share buyback program of up to $3 billion from 2017 through 2019. This reflects the company’s confidence and the continued strength of ABB’s cash generation and financial position. On September 30, 2016, ABB announced the completion of its recent share buyback program in which it returned $3.5bn to its shareholders. Over the last three years, ABB has returned $8.7bn to shareholders in the form of dividends and share buybacks.

Active portfolio management remains a key aspect of ABB’s operating pattern as demonstrated in the recent portfolio pruning and bolt on acquisitions as well as the announced cable business divestiture and business model changes in Power Grids.

ABB’s capital allocation priorities remain unchanged: 1) funding organic growth, R&D and capital expenditures at attractive cash returns; 2) paying a steadily rising, sustainable dividend; 3) investing in value-creating acquisitions; and 4) returning additional cash to shareholders.


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