It’s not Paris. It’s Lippstadt. For Patrick Koller, 62, the man from the French capital, the appearance on Monday in the province of Westphalia is always akin to a home match. Like coming home. “We have comparable cultures,” Koller says. This is his group, the French automotive supplier Faurecia, which now wants to buy the Lippstadt headlight specialist Hella. But it also seems that the boss of Faurecia speaks for himself when he talks about culture in perfect German: Koller is Franco-German and lived partly in Germany as a child. He had one of his first jobs at Hella in the early 1990s. His boss at the time, Jürgen Behrend, was the very manager of the company, which now ceded the block of shares held by the majority shareholders to him. by Hella. Proximity, Koller shows, made doing business a billion dollar easier.
This weekend, the Hueck / Röpke family of entrepreneurs decided to sell their 60% stake in Hella: to Faurecia. The family will receive 3.4 billion euros for this, to which will be added a minority stake in Faurecia. Thus emerges the seventh largest automotive supplier in the world: a group of 150,000 employees that sells lights and sensors, seats and propulsion technologies to automakers around the world – at least in a similar league. to that of Bosch or ZF. After the Hueck / Röpke family, the remaining Hella shareholders have to decide in the fall whether they also want to sell their shares. But Faurecia already has the majority for sure.
For Koller, the buyout is his biggest blow to date. Hella’s strong position in headlights and electronics should allow Faurecia to become less dependent on heat engine activity. In addition, Koller aims to access high-end manufacturers such as Daimler or Audi. “I hope that we can soon share the privacy of Hella with German manufacturers,” says Koller. “We need Hella. And I believe Hella needs us too.”
With the merger, Hella’s locations would “tend to be more secure,” said company boss Rolf Breidenbach.
The two companies estimate that together they can make 200 million euros more profit than if they remained independent. Hella boss Rolf Breidenbach refers to greater purchasing power. Executives have yet to announce any job cuts. The trade in sensors for semi-autonomous cars, for example, is growing rapidly: “There is more to do than less,” says Breidenbach. “Hella’s locations have become safer than dangerous.” The 58-year-old had previously tried to cut Hella’s costs in recent years. A voluntary severance pay program is currently underway at the Lippstadt head office.
After all, three divisions of the merged group should be headquartered in Lippstadt: the lighting, electronics and spare parts business. Faurecia wants to master the other areas of seats, interior fittings and engines in France. Even after the takeover, Hella will systematically invest in research and development, Breidenbach said, as agreed. Competition authorities have yet to review the merger. Both companies expect the deal to be reached in early 2022.
Koller is charming on Monday, saying his colleague Breidenbach could “clearly strengthen” the merged group. But the man with the round face and the angular glasses also has another facet: in industrial circles, it is said to be “fear management” and since his arrival as boss of Faurecia five years ago the pressure is enormous. . Koller may have turned the business from an exhaust pipe maker into a high-tech global supplier – he’s also proven he can shut factories. In the group, the bad tongues changed his surname to “Anger” in a playful way: Patrick, the angry.
The fact that the two providers merged was in large part thanks to the Hueck / Röpke family from Koller. For almost 100 years, the Branch Dynasty has held the majority of Hella society, whose history began with kerosene lamps. In 2014, the heirs took Hella public and pooled their shares in a pool contract that runs until 2024. After that, according to a concern in Lippstadt, the family members could have sold their shares “uncontrollably. “and en masse. A sale “without time constraint”, as the owner of the swimming pool Behrend put it, is the best alternative, declares the owner of Hella Breidenbach: “It gives security, it gives transparency, it gives perspective.”
The family, in turn, will in the future be one of the main shareholders of Faurecia – alongside illustrious dynasties such as the Agnellis, i.e. the Fiat heirs, and the Peugeot family.