* Top hearing aid maker could hit 4 bln Sfr sales within decade
* Sonova seeks smooth transition after 2011 management chaos (Adds sales target, details of management shakeup in 2011)
By John Miller
ZURICH, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Sonova Chief Executive Lukas Braunschweiler expects his newly named successor to boost sales by two-thirds to 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.17 billion) in a decade as the Swiss hearing aid maker gets a lift from new products and a growing retail network.
Arnd Kaldowski, a 50-year-old German who has headed U.S.-based Danaher Corp.’s diagnostics business, was named on Friday to become Sonova’s chief operating officer in October and is slated to replace Braunschweiler as CEO on April 1, 2018.
Since Braunschweiler’s arrival in 2011, Sonova’s annual sales have grown 50 percent to 2.4 billion Swiss francs ($2.50 billion) as the company expanded its retail outlets through acquisitions, including last year’s nearly $1 billion purchase of Netherlands-based AudioNova.
To get to 4 billion francs, Sonova is also banking on new products including direct-streaming hearing aids meant to go head-to-head with similar products from Danish rivals GN Store Nord, William Demant and Widex.
Initial data on the new hearing aids was “very encouraging” a week after the first U.S. shipments, he said.
“This company will grow to up to 4 billion, and it’s great to have a leader in place with fresh energy,” Braunschweiler said in an interview. “It’s probably in the next seven-to-10 years time frame, depending on what the market is.”
Shares in Sonova, which also makes cochlear implants, rose 0.9 percent by 0800 GMT and have gained 32 percent this year.
Kaldowski’s gradual ascension to chief executive next year is slated to be a methodical transfer of power, a sharp contrast to the management shake-up at the world’s biggest maker of hearing aids when Sonova swapped out management in 2011 amid a probe into executive share sales ahead of a profit warning.
Then-Chairman Andy Rihs, whose family remains Sonova’s second-biggest shareholder, Chief Executive Valentin Chapero and Chief Financial Officer Oliver Walker all stepped down, plunging the company into a leadership crisis after it was already reeling from a product recall.
Braunschweiler, a 61-year-old chemist, was quickly recruited from Swiss aerospace and weapons group Ruag to steady the company.
By contrast, Kaldowski will ease into his role, first taking the reins of Sonova’s hearing instruments, retail and cochlear implants as well as research & development and supply chain this October. He will assume responsibility for finance, investor relations and communications seven months later.
“It’s a result of a very thorough succession and transition process planning, it is not by surprise,” Braunschweiler said. “It’s a different transition than we had last time.”
Kaldowski, a physicist by training, has overseen Danaher’s $5.5 billion diagnostics business whose units Radiometer, Leica Biosystems and Cepheid compete with Swiss drugmaker Roche .
$1 = 0.9603 Swiss francs Editing by Michael Shields