He has a core goal: to weld the entities into a business that can grow its sales from EUR 250m to EUR 400m in five years. His strategy is to use a single sales team cross-selling the expertise within the group and, possibly, some M&A activity. But, he said, the focus will very much be on organic growth and filling in the gaps between the businesses.
Apart from the Spanish business, which was deliberately built as a systems house, the other parts of Plixxent were bought and run independently. The systems houses that form the new company handle smaller volumes, and those businesses with customised products are relatively complex, he explained. 'This makes it challenging for a large company which is, naturally, more focused on larger volumes and standardised products,' he added.
This comes through in his description of the carve-out process. 'We have had to implement a completely new IT structure, computers, servers must be new from day one,’ he said. ‘As a consequence of the carve-out, we also had to build a new back office structure at a group level.'
In total, the Plixxent business had contracts to supply customers with about 100kT/year of systems at the point of the spin-out. The move simplifies matters for Covestro, which is more focused on larger accounts.
We are independent, and have a strong relationship withCovestro to source raw materials
'We are independent, and have a strong relationship with Covestro to source raw materials,’ he said. ‘Customers should know that our raw material supply is 100% assured. We can source from other suppliers, too. This will help customers because we can offer them a broader portfolio of materials.
Plixxent includes plants in Tarragona, Spain; Foxhol, Netherlands; Oldenburg, Germany; and Otterup in Denmark. There is also a sales office in Italy.
'We are planning to keep the individual approaches and use the core manufacturing, technology and service competences in each region,’ Schottek said. ‘But we are looking to significantly strengthen our sales force across our regions. We will have four plants producing different materials with a sales force operating across markets and customers.’
He added that the sales team will look for opportunities and make sales across the whole portfolio. ‘We have experts on different segments,’ he said. ‘There are a lot of opportunities to grow organically.’
This organic growth is likely to be achieved by asking what share of the polyurethane market a type of product has, and then striving to match the sales to that share in each country. This will be done by a larger, technically competent workforce which will sell the groups portfolio of products. Italy is the front runner for expansion.
He explained: ‘Looking at Europe in general, we will try to increase our sales organically, but we will also look at opportunities for acquisitions. For example, Italy is the second biggest market, and what we see is a lot of small, family-owned customers that need technical service. It is highly attractive for us.’
HIG has invested in nine other chemical-related groups in the past decade. Schottek said. 'We are excited to work with such an experienced investor,’ he added. ‘Together we will target growth for Plixxent, organically and via M&A.’
He started work at Hoechst in 1989, before moving to Celanese. He then worked for Ticona, now part of Celanese, where he ran the Vectra liquid crystal polymer business in Europe, and then gained global responsibility for the business. Later on, he also took on responsibility for the Fortron polyphenylene sulfide business and Ticona’s global R&D. More recently, he turned around a chemical distribution company and grown sales at Albis Plastics as CEO, before becoming interim CEO in Switzerland at another company. For the past three years he was an independent consultant, before HIG invited him to join this project.