Interview with Ralf Krueger, Lanxess Regional Head EMEA.
From October 1, 2020, you are the CEO of LANXESS Central Eastern Europe s.r.o. How would you evaluate this year of your life?
I started my new position in the midst of the pandemic; meeting new colleagues and team members in person was very restricted. Managing the business under the special circumstances of the pandemic caused crisis was certainly a challenge – but also a fantastic experience thanks to the flexibility and great engagement of the team I have the pleasure to work with. And: We are the fastest growing region for LANXESS in Europe. I am eager to drive LANXESS forward.
As for current business; despite a sharp rise of raw material, energy and freight costs, Lanxess operating business continued to develop positively in Q3 this year. How would you define the success?
LANXESS has asserted itself in a challenging environment: Despite this exceptional increase of raw material, energy and freight costs in the third quarter of 2021, our operational result grew by 44.0 percent to EUR 278 million compared to the prior-year quarter.
We are still living in the era of the coronavirus pandemic and the various difficulties caused by it. But during this time Lanxess bought two companies: Emerald Kalama Chemicals, a manufacturer of aroma chemicals, and IFF Microbial, the business with microbial protection products that protect food from germs. Is this a good time to buy?
You need to grab the chances as they come along. We have promised that 2021 would become a year of growth for LANXESS - and we have delivered. With Emerald Kalama, Theseo and Intace we have closed even three acquisitions in 2021 and with IFF Microbial Solutions we announced a fourth one already. Realizing all this during one of the most serious crises of the last decades clearly shows, that LANXESS is acting out of a position of strength. We were interested in these companies for a long time as their products perfectly complement our existing product portfolio. And when the time came we were ready to go.
Do these acquisitions indicate an exit from the industrial business?
Over the past 6 years we have been transforming LANXESS into a true specialty chemicals company. The company has a completely different face than back in 2015. We sold large commodity businesses that no longer fit our strategic focus - such as the rubber business. And we bought businesses that are characterized by high margins, low asset intensity and stable growth. In this new set-up our company is much more resilient and profitable as it was in the past.
All four acquisitions of this year exactly follow this path. They strengthen our newly formed Consumer Protection segment. Furthermore we enhanced our market leading positions in preservatives and disinfection products and became a global champion for aroma chemicals. But all that does not mean that we exit the industrial business. This is still important to us.