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East meets west as Chinese company buys German family business

Chinese investors have acquired a large Mittelstand company after finally cracking the family-control barrier, which has traditionally prevented foreign businesses from purchasing Germany’s privately-owned manufacturing companies.
German family business Putzmeister, maker of concrete pumps, has been sold. Image: © Chris Gladis

Chinese investors have acquired a large Mittelstand company after finally cracking the family-control barrier, which has traditionally prevented foreign businesses from purchasing Germany’s privately-owned manufacturing companies.

In the first sale of a large and well-known Mittelstand company to Chinese buyers, Sany Heavy Industry, along with Chinese private equity company Citic PE Advisors, will acquire 100% of German family business Putzmeister. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Mittelstand, used to describe small and medium-sized companies, is often seen as the mainstay of Germany’s strong economy. The companies are usually family-controlled, making acquisitions difficult. Aichtal-based Putzmeister, a leading provider of concrete pumps around the world, had been controlled by the Schlecht family since it was founded in 1958.

In a joint statement issued on 27 January, the companies said the “business activities of Putzmeister and Sany are highly complementary geographically”. Sany, established by Chinese entrepreneur Liang Wengen, produces construction machinery and concrete pumps – the deal will allow it to take advantage of Putzmeister’s strong global market share.

Putzmeister, founded by Karl Schlecht, saw its revenues almost halve since 2007 - it reported 2011 sales of €570 million. The family controlled the business through the Karl Schlecht Family Foundation and the Karl Schlecht Public Benefit Foundation.

Read the next issue of CampdenFB for more information on Germany's family businesses.  

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