April 23, 2015 / 7:35 AM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 3-Bilfinger says major restructuring awaits new CEO

* Swissport CEO Utnegaard to start on June 1

* Restructuring, portfolio reshaping to come

* Shares drop 16 percent (Adds details on new CFO Salzmann, investor Cevian)

By Georgina Prodhan

FRANKFURT, April 23 (Reuters) - Germany’s Bilfinger signalled a major shake-up under its new chief executive after the loss-making engineering services company’s fifth profit warning in less than a year sent its shares tumbling 16 percent on Thursday.

Any part of the business in which there are doubts over future performance will face the prospect of reorganisation and restructuring or could even be discontinued, outgoing CEO Herbert Bodner said.

“Anything that doesn’t fit may be part of the portfolio reshaping,” he added.

Bilfinger confirmed on Thursday that Swissport Chief Executive Per Utnegaard would take over as chief executive from June 1, ending a 10-month power vacuum sparked by the resignation of Roland Koch last August.

The news followed a profit warning after Wednesday’s market close, in which the company said that its U.S. oil and gas business is faring worse than expected and that demand from power plant owners remains weak.

The warning came three weeks after the arrival of Axel Salzmann as Bilfinger’s new finance chief.

Shares in Bilfinger, which have lost 45 percent of their value over the past year, dropped 15.6 percent to 48.59 euros by 1221 GMT after touching their lowest level since early February.

Activist shareholder Cevian, which has built up a stake of 26 percent in Bilfinger over more than three years, declined to comment on the warning, which pushed the shares well below the roughly 60 euros at which Cevian acquired much of its holding.

Cevian has taken a more active role at Bilfinger than at other companies in which it has invested, installing its own candidate as chairman and taking two seats on the board.


“New management will have heavy lifting to steady the declines and we expect cost cutting, streamlining and rationalisation to be the key priority,” UBS analyst Gregor Kuglitsch wrote, adding that his valuation of Bilfinger is “under review”.

Utnegaard, 55, is credited with turning Swissport into the world’s leading ground-handling company for the airline industry, integrating multiple acquisitions including the $600 million purchase of Servisair in 2013.

Decisions on how to fix Bilfinger, which has struggled to adapt to structural changes in the energy markets it serves, will have to wait for Utnegaard to take up his position alongside Salzmann, but Bodner said that costs for further restructuring of the power plant business would be substantial.

“It’s certainly not a 10 million (euro) issue. It will be considerably more,” Bodner told analysts on a conference call.

Bilfinger cut about 2,000 jobs last year, about 6 percent of its total workforce, most of them in the stricken power division. It has also abandoned plans for a new headquarters, closed sites and is divesting assets.

Though the power business has been hit by Germany’s increasing use of renewable energy, Bodner acknowledged that its problems are partly of its own making.

“It’s market-driven on the one hand, but there are also home-made problems to do with project controls,” he said. (Editing by David Goodman and Elaine Hardcastle)

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