With our new vision, new strategy, and new way of thinking, there is a lot going on at Aurubis. In the following, the Aurubis Executive Board assesses the current situation and explains where our path is headed.
The new Aurubis strategy was presented about one year ago. How would you evaluate it so far?
Jürgen Schachler (JS): Positively, without a doubt. We’ve initiated many small and large measures for further growth. One of the most visible is our internal project Future Complex Metallurgy, or FCM for short. This project will help us substantially increase the volumes of metal, apart from copper, that we recover, and develop more in the direction of a multi-metal supplier. Our efficiency improvement program is also important to me. It is a program that has been making an impact in the company for a while now. Thanks to forward-looking planning, we already know which initiatives we’ll be carrying out in the coming year to generate another € 60 million in project success in 2018/19, of a total of € 200 million. All of the employees in every division and at every site are contributing to this, from production to the administrative departments. We pay attention to this balance.
Rainer Verhoeven (RV): This success is also reflected in our numbers, with operating earnings up by 10 % in 2017/18. Indeed, this is one of the best results in the company’s history. We are thus comfortably within our forecast. It’s fair to add that we have benefited from a positive market environment. Moreover, we’re virtually debt-free at the moment. This is a good starting point for further growth.
Dr. Thomas Bünger (TB): One more point regarding FCM: I’m glad to see how much excitement the employees are bringing to their work and collaboration. An important project like this one has the potential to help individuals surpass themselves. It’s no wonder that we’re fully on schedule for implementation despite the uncertainties that accompany a huge project like this one. Our sites’ good operating performance in fiscal year 2017/18 also clearly indicates that we have a huge level of commitment to our daily work in the entire Group!
In what areas do you wish you were further along?
JS: As a general rule, we don’t rush, because we can maneuver from a place of strength thanks to our good market position.
However, in the future we want to shape external growth more than we currently do. Following initial success with the full acquisition of Deutsche Giessdraht in July 2018, our acquisition situation has calmed down somewhat. This doesn’t mean that we’re not actively reviewing different possibilities at the moment, but that we do this very conscientiously – with the necessary level of prudence. For instance, there could be interesting synergies in multi-metal recycling, where we already have a competitive edge due to our leading technology. The same is true for the sale of our Segment Flat Rolled Products, which will enable us to concentrate more on our metallurgical expertise again.
RV: External growth is an important part of our strategy – but not at all costs, of course. Nevertheless, we will stay on the ball in 2019 because we have the necessary funds and ideas.
JS: The topic of leadership culture is also close to my heart. We would like to give our employees the tools to feel more like entrepreneurs within the company. What I mean is, those who have a high level of responsibility for their actions and their work are more willing to deliver a top performance and follow through with their tasks. Moreover, we have to act more strongly as a team in the future, as ONE Aurubis. My guiding motto: Nobody is perfect, but a team can be. We have room to grow in this regard.
TB: In my opinion, there’s also still some catching-up to do when it comes to the question-and-answer culture and how we provide good explanations internally about the change processes that come with our new strategy. On the other hand, it is also important for employees to ask these questions. This is the only way that everyone can ensure that the issues relevant to them are addressed and that they can help shape these areas.
What do you expect from 2019?
RV: We will continue to pursue our strategic measures with enthusiasm and focus. As Mr. Schachler already mentioned, we will also push forward with improvement projects in the administrative divisions as well. A stronger harmonization of software solutions, processes, and approaches – across all of the key international sites – is one of my main interests. Our research and innovation department is working intensively with digitalization topics. For example, we want to draw even more from our raw materials and continue improving our energy management using models and artificial intelligence.
TB: We will make Aurubis fit for the future with the people who work here. Our environment is changing: Today, about half of the world’s copper is produced and processed in China. With innovative process solutions such as FCM, which can be ideally integrated into our existing smelter network and provide us with even more flexibility in raw material sourcing, we will continue to expand our competitive position. In this way, we’re developing from a sheer processor into a solution provider, for instance for our mine partners. At the same time, we want to work more intensively with our copper product customers in the future, in areas like recycling and end products.
JS: Our fundamental goal is to build on the previous year’s good development in the coming year. We defined a clear objective with our Vision 2025, and we’re now on the path to attaining it. It’s important to me that we travel this path under the guidance of our sustainability ambitions. These include forward-looking projects such as our Industrial Heat project, which we inaugurated at the end of October. These successes strikingly indicate that we are in a position to unite economic interests with sustainable conduct. We will continue to do so in 2019.
This interview was conducted by Angela Seidler, Vice President Investor Relations & Corporate Communications.