Gordon Riske and John Feldmann
An interview on the Dematic acquisition with Chief Executive Officer Gordon Riske and the Chairman of the Supervisory Board John Feldmann.
Gordon, what does the acquisition of Dematic mean for the KION Group?
GR: To put it quite simply: It is the beginning of a new era. It’s an exciting time for KION. From a customer’s viewpoint, markets are changing and more things are being delivered overnight and more quickly. Now you put together a company that has forklifts, autonomous vehicles and complete integrated distribution centers—and you offer this to the customer out of one hand, that’s a very unique business proposition that no other competitor has. It’s a very unique offering. And when you put all that together—30,000 people and almost 8 billion euro in revenue—it is also a company that has the strength to be able to deliver. Apart from the IPO we did in 2013, it is the most important thing that the company has done in the last ten years.
Dematic is also operating a business that has been growing 12-15 percent or more per year in the last several years. So we also have a new growth story in front of us that both companies will profit from.
JF: What is most important is that within the company we grow our entrepreneurial spirit. That everybody agrees to use and utilize the opportunities and the know-how and the experience that is there—not only to serve customers and their current demands best but also to shape the future of intralogistics. And I think this is the opportunity that we have with this company.
The integration process is going very well. And if I think of the cultures and how the two companies work together, that’s always the best sign. It’s real simple. The people not only get along with each other, they actually like to be with each other.
There is obviously something in this acquisition for each and every stakeholder?
GR: Absolutely. If we do it right, and I am sure we will, we have the teams in place and everybody cares about what they’re doing, it really is a situation of two complementary businesses in a field of logistics/e-commerce that is growing market share around the world. So we have all the ingredients. And it’s just up to us to make it work, and, as you say, all the shareholders will profit from this acquisition.
And what were the reactions of the stakeholders when the acquisition was announced?
GR: Well first of all, if I look at the capital market, there was surprise. Why would KION do that? But, after a few days, that settled down and they understood the industrial logic behind it. The rating agency Fitch just recently gave us an investment grade rating. On the customer side, many customers are very excited that Dematic now has a long-term home that is not private equity. And for all of our customers, this ability to give a complete offering is very important. But I want to say that the most convincing part of this are the employees. When we were in Grand Rapids on closing day on November 1, 2016—1,300 people in four different town hall meetings—there was such excitement. People were clapping and cheering and were really glad to be part of the new era.
JF: What’s most important is that all of us understand that we have an opportunity—an enormous opportunity—to really shape the future of logistics. It is very exciting. Now we need build our entrepreneurial spirit so we can turn these opportunities into reality.