The Scheifele interview

Published 26 October 2011

A series of major deals, culminating in the UK£8bn acquisition of Hanson (UK) in 2007, saw HeidelbergCement emerge as a global market leader in cement and aggregates. As with many companies in the sector, the financial crisis brought with it a series of challenges, resulting in the substantial restrucuturing of the company, transforming it from a largely private company, closely held within the Merckle empire, into a publically listed company listed on the DAX 30. Dr Bernd Scheifele, CEO, talks frankly about the company’s recent evolution as well as its strategy and performance in this wide-ranging and exclusive interview with ICR.

In the southwest of Germany, some 50 miles south of Frankfurt, lies the historic city of Heidelberg, picturesquely situated on the banks of the River Neckar. Best known for its famous university, the city is also home to the third-largest of the multinational cement producers, HeidelbergCement.

Established in 1873, and active only in Germany until the end of the 1960s, the company began its process of internationalisation with the purchase of a stake in Vicat and the acquisition of Lehigh Cement in the USA in 1977. The subsequent acquisitions of CBR (Belgium) and Scancem (Sweden) expanded HeidelbergCement’s reach beyond Europe and into Africa and Asia. The year 2001 marked its entry into Indonesia, followed by China, India, Russia and former Soviet Union countries.

Dr Bernd Schiefele

Dr Bernd Scheifele,

Since 2005, Dr Scheifele has been at the helm of HeidelbergCement, but his association with the company began long before. Trained as a lawyer in Germany, France and in the US, Scheifele previously held the position of CEO at Phoenix, a large pharmaceutical distribution company with a turnover of €22bn owned by Adolf Merckle. A long-term minor shareholder in HeidelbergCement, Merckle built up a majority holding in the company and Dr Scheifele was parachuted in to join the Supervisory Board. By the time Scheifele became CEO in February 2005, Heidelberg was virtually a private company and an important cornerstone of the expanding Merkle empire. In 2007, HeidelbergCement completed its largest ever deal with the acquisition of Hanson (UK), firmly positioning the German group as the largest aggregates company in the world and top three cement producer. Then came the financial crisis. ICR picks up the story...

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