After five years in the job and 14 years with the company, ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer abruptly stepped down this week. ABB Chairman Peter Voser, a former CEO of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, was named interim CEO of the Swiss industrial technology giant until a permanent successor is found.
Spiesshofer’s departure, which the company said was a mutual decision, comes as ABB embarks on a new strategy unveiled in December to focus on four areas — electrification, automation, robotics and motion. The company agreed at that time to sell its power-grids business to Japan’s Hitachi Ltd. in a deal that valued the business at $11 billion.
“We will continue to focus on implementing ABB’s strategy and delivering value to all our stakeholders,” Voser said in an ABB release. “To achieve our key financial targets, we will proceed with the divestment of ABB’s Power Grids business as planned, simplify the organizational structure of the group and deliver cost savings. Finally, our four new leading businesses will be fully dedicated to meet our customer needs for digitalization, electrification, automation and robotics.”
During his time at ABB, Spiesshofer strategically repositioned the company and built up growth momentum across all businesses, Voser said.
ABB released its report on first quarter earnings ahead of schedule to coincide with the announcement of Spiesshofer’s departure. The report included a lot of positive numbers. The company earned $535 million on revenues of just over $6.8 billion, an increase of 4%. ABB’s share price gained 5% on the announcement.
“We delivered another quarter of solid orders and revenue growth demonstrating the quality and resilience of our portfolio despite the softening we have seen in some of our end-markets, particularly in discrete manufacturing and the automotive sector,” said ABB CFO Timo Ihamuotila, in ABB’s earnings release.
The integration of GE Industrial Solutions, which ABB acquired for $2.6 billion in 2017, continues to be a priority, Ihamuotila said. “We remain firmly focused on operational performance and the integration of GEIS; excluding the GEIS impact, our operational margin improved. We are well on track with the Power Grids separation and our four new leading businesses started operations on April 1 as planned.”