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September/October 2014 Sept/Oct 2014

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From The Editor

Saurer Is Saurer Again

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

It is not every day that a Chinese investor buys one of the largest textile machinery conglomerates from a Russian owner — primarily out of admiration for the company's European DNA. But on July 1, that is what happened: Oerlikon's Natural Fibers and Textile Components businesses were sold to Chinese investor Jinsheng Group — and, in an interesting twist, its new moniker is Saurer Group.

Daniel Lippuner, the new CEO of the new Saurer — interviewed in this issue of Textile World — is very positive about Saurer's new, flat management structure featuring little bureaucracy — and about the re-emergence of the Saurer brand story and the company's portfolio of well-established brands.

Many in the industry scratched their heads when, in 2006, the Saurer brand was kicked to the curb as the umbrella brand for Schlafhorst, Zinser, Allma, Volkmann and others, only to be replaced by the then-new owner's name, Oerlikon. Many marketers were stunned. A terrific brand legacy and the value of years of advertising and promotion were simply ignored. Now, seven or so years later, that brand value has been recaptured by giving the new company the Saurer name, and the full Saurer legacy is restored.

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This renaming speaks volumes about smart management and even a little about suppressing one's ego. It is hard for entrepreneurs not to smack their name all over everything they invest in — think Trump, or even when Bloomberg bought Business Week and relaunched it as Bloomberg Business Week.

According to Lippuner, the Jinsheng Group was formed in 2000 by Pan Xueping, who has a background and investments in textiles, as well as interests in real estate, biomedical and a German company call EMAC that makes CNC machines. Pan is no stranger to Oerlikon or Saurer, as Jinsheng was in a joint venture with Saurer to make blow rooms for the Chinese market.

Lippuner was positive in his comments regarding the U.S. textile market, citing projects underway that he could not even anticipate a few years back. In his interview, he also provided a global view that is worth the read.

So what will the future hold for the group? Lippuner, who is young and a world traveler, functions under the direction of Saurer's Board. Pan wants to see Saurer run as a European company, and the Board is made up of four Europeans, Pan and two Chinese colleagues. Day-to-day operations are the Europeans' responsibility. Lippuner spoke of each of the brands inside of Saurer as having individual responsibility and of coupling R&D with the respective manufacturing sites. Also, all R&D will take place in Europe, and Lippuner is committed to more of it — something he felt had a little less priority under Oerlikon. He spoke at length about each of the manufacturing sites having great experienced people and about R&D needing those people — In his words, "That is where the brain is."

Oerlikon reportedly nets $495 million from the sale of Saurer. The engineering conglomerate retains Barmag and Neumag.

September/October 2013