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Family business roundup: Good week for Europe's family-controlled firms

By Giulia Cambieri

Asian countries have been growing faster than their European counterparts recently. Yet the reverse was seen in the family business sector this week, when five family firms in Europe posted strong results, while one Asian shipping company saw its profits drop by more than 80%.

Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container International, which is controlled by the Tung family, said on 12 March that profit plummeted by 84% in 2011 to $139 million (€106.1 million), from $870 million in 2010. Revenues at the group also fell to $6.01 billion, down 0.35% from $6.03 billion in 2010.

However, the company blamed its weak results on its western, rather than its Asian, operations. Family member and chairman Tung Chee-chen said “slow economic growth in the US and in Europe” negatively affected the group, adding that he expects “trading conditions to continue to be difficult” in 2012.

In contrast with OOCL’s results, the tough economic situation doesn't seem to have affected a number of German and Italian family businesses, including the BMW Group, which saw profits jump by 51.3% to €4.91 billion in 2011.

Revenues at the Munich-based carmaker, which is 46.7% controlled by the founding Quandt family, increased by 13.79% in 2011 to €68.82 billion, from €60.48 billion in 2010, the company said on 13 March.

But BMW wasn’t the only carmaker in Germany to report strong growth in 2011. The Volkswagen Group, which is controlled by the Piech family, confirmed on 12 March the preliminary results it published in February – with revenues up 25.6% to €159.3 billion. Operating profit at the Wolfsburg-based group, which is Europe’s biggest automaker by sales, was €11.3 billion, up 57.8% from €7.14 billion in 2010.

Henkel, the German consumer goods company famous for brands such as Schwarzkopf and Persil, also saw an increase in its turnover in 2011 – sales grew by 3.4% to €15.6 billion, from €15.1 billion in 2010.

Operating profit at the Dusseldorf-based business, which is overseen by fifth-generation Simone Bagel-Trah, increased by almost 8% to €1.86 billion in 2011, the company said on 8 March.

In Italy, Pirelli, headed by Marco Tronchetti-Provera, the ex-husband of founder Giovanni Battista Pirelli’s great-granddaughter, reported double-digit growth for 2011.

In a statement released on 12 March, the Milan-based tyre company said sales rose by 16.6% to €5.65 billion, from €4.85 billion in 2010. Operating income at the firm was €581.9 million for the same period, compared to €407.8 million the previous year – a 42.7% increase.

Fellow Italian family business Campari, the drinks company controlled by the Garavoglia family, said on 12 March that revenues rose by 9.6% in 2011 to €1.28 billion, from €1.16 billion the previous year. Net profit for 2011 was €159.2 million, up 1.9% from €156.2 in 2010.

Campari’s results were boosted by strong growth outside Europe and the Americas, with sales jumping 28.3% in the rest of the world.