Three clear messages were issued at Linde’s Press Conference on Monday by outgoing CEO Professor Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle – success, strength and teamwork.
Despite the event being his final occasion of sitting in front of a crowd of reporters in the CEO’s seat, Mr. Reitzle remained the ambassador of the company – speaking of group achievements, togetherness, and provided clear indication that despite his impending exit, Linde wouldn’t not suddenly become a weakened company.
Mr. Reitzle welcomed gasworld’s questions and thanked us for asking them as it “provided me with an opportunity to say what I wanted to say.”
We asked a series of questions - and Mr. Reitzle answered, “We have been able to hold our own fairly well – despite an unfavourable exchange rate at the end of the year, which was an issue. The currency fluctuations have to be taken into account as well as, if this wasn’t the case, we would have exceeded our goals of raising profits.”
“But I am very satisfied. Years ago we couldn’t have guessed we would become the number one industrial gases company. But we have to keep working on this for it to remain.”
“And as for my successor – every day something is happening in this business. There is a lot of room for Linde to continue growing and improving. Circumstances won’t change here. You can’t suddenly stop things.”
“As of May 21st (in 2016 – the end of the two year cooling off period) I can determine what I do with my life and I will be listening to my wife and two dogs. I will still be interested in the company. Two years is a long time and I will always be interested in Linde as I have put a lot into things here.”
Reitzle, who has been at the helm of Linde since 2003, and previously spent 26 years in the car industry, has said in the past that he will have the chance to “reorganize his career” after he steps down.
But at the conference there was still no confirmation that he will not join the company’s supervisory board or oversight board immediately after the end of the cooling off period.
“We are not afraid of anyone – there are big companies out there but in the world, we are the biggest,” declared Mr. Reitzle, adding, “Being the largest packaged and cylinder gases producer means this section of our business is very important. There are millions and millions (of our products) anywhere in the world (right now) so we need some exclusive micromanagement of this. Caring for the smaller customers needing one or two cylinders a year is just as important as the lager contracts we have. And this doesn’t just apply to Linde. About two years ago we changed this and focused on the smaller businesses and the result was we got more customers. We showed the smaller customers what gases are good for what jobs and this builds something vital – customer loyalty”
“It’s my hope in 2017 Linde will continue to expand – becoming more reliable for everything in the industry. From safety to equipment – we want to offer hardware and software. We have a charm and attraction for our company which means that we can care for everyone in a company. A really strong point of this company is the power we have at our disposal.”
To culminate his responses to our questioning, Mr. Reitzle concluded, “It’s not just me giving a review of the past – everything that has been achieved we have done as a team and the team, as a whole, has been very good. Retrospectively, BOC was a proud company, almost as large as we were (when it was acquired by Linde in 2006) but we integrated it seamlessly.”
“Other companies have failed at M&A but it’s due to lack of planning and not being good at integration. This integration we demonstrated with the BOC deal is something we can be proud of and will not change in the future. Linde is strong because of teamwork.”
“In adjusted terms and comparing ourselves against other companies we have done very well this year in a very tough environment. Currency is something we can’t change but we are very pleased with these results.”
Mr. Reitzle also commented that the €5bn profit target will be something we achieve very soon.”