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Family business roundup: Profits up at VW, ABF and Sabanci, down at Moller-Maersk

By Giulia Cambieri

It’s been a good week for three of Europe’s biggest family businesses, although Denmark’s Moller-Maersk Group has been hit by “voltatile markets”.

German carmaker Volkswagen said revenues jumped 25.6% to €159.34 billion in 2011, from €126.88 billion in 2010.

The Wolfsburg-based group, which is controlled by the Piech family, released its preliminary results on 24 February. It said it sold more than 8.3 million automobiles in 2011, about one million more than the previous year.

Operating profit at the German company, which is Europe’s biggest automaker, rose to €11.27 billion during the same period, from €7.14 billion in 2010 – a 57.8% increase.

But VW is not the only family business in Europe to have had a positive year. In Turkey, industrial and financial conglomerate Sabanci Holding posted revenues of TRY22.9 billion (€9.7 billion) for 2011, up 17% from TRY19.6 billion in 2010.

During a news conference on 24 February, non-family chief executive Zafer Kurtul added that operational profit at the group, which controls about 70 companies in a number of sectors including retail, cement, energy and telecoms, was TRY4.3 billion in 2011.

The Sabanci family controls 60.6% of the business, with third-generation Guler Sabanci currently serving as chairwoman.

In the UK, Associated British Foods, the food and retail group controlled by the Weston family, also said it expects revenues to increase in all its divisions for the half year ending on 3 March.

The London-based group, which owns food brands such as Kingsmill, Twinings and Ryvita, as well as retail chain Primark, said in a trading update on 27 February: “The interim results for the group will be in line with expectations with all segments delivering revenue growth.”

The company, currently headed by third-generation George Weston, added that its sugar unit has seen strong growth in the last year, buoyed by increased demand in the UK.

“Adjusted operating profit for the group will be ahead of last year with an exceptionally strong performance from sugar,” it said.

ABF, founded in 1935, will announce its half year results on 24 April.

In contrast, profits at AP Moller - Maersk Group, a Danish shipping and oil conglomerate, fell 36% in 2011 to DKK18.08 billion (€2.43 billion), from DKK28.22 billion in 2010.

However, revenues at the Copenhagen-based company, which is controlled by the Mc-Kinney Moller family, rose by 2% during the same period to DKK322.5 billion, from DKK315.4 billion the previous year.

“Markets are volatile, but our businesses are fundamentally strong and competitive,” Trond Westlie, the group’s chief financial officer, said in a statement on 27 February, adding that he expects 2012 to be “another challenging year”. 

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