August 12, 2019 / 6:49 AM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Decentraliser Rosengren is ideal man to transform ABB, says chairman

(Adds comments from biggest investor, background, analysts, shares)

By John Revill

ZURICH, Aug 12 (Reuters) - ABB Chairman Peter Voser said he was convinced he had got the right man to transform the Swiss engineering group after it announced Sandvik boss Bjorn Rosengren would become its next chief executive.

Rosengren will take over at the Zurich-based maker of industrial drives and robots in March, the company said on Sunday, with Voser reverting to his position as chairman.

ABB, whose previous CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer left suddenly in April, is in the middle of overhauling its business following years of lacklustre profit and bungled acquisitions.

"As my successor as CEO, Bjorn Rosengren is the ideal candidate to take ABB forward, together with our strong team on the Executive Committee. He understands how to empower people to perform and create long-term value," Voser said in a tweet on Monday.

During his four years at Sandvik, Rosengren decentralised the operations of the metal-cutting tools and mining gear maker and sold off underperforming businesses.

ABB, whose shares have lost 14% of their value over the last five years, is selling its power grids business to Hitachi and last month announced a deal to quit the solar energy inverters business.

Voser, a former CEO of oil major Shell, has launched a review of businesses which generate $3 billion of revenue, or 11% of ABB's total, which could be improved or sold.

Analysts were positive about the appointment, with ABB shares indicated 1.2% higher in premarket activity.

"With the appointment of Rosengren, ABB will have a CEO with a proven track record and a strong reputation in the capital markets for delivering operational improvement," said Alexander Virgo at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

"In our view, his success at Sandvik in implementing a decentralised business model should make him a good match for ABB, which is seeking to make a fundamental shift in corporate culture following the sale of Power Grids."

ABB's largest shareholder Investor AB said it was pleased with the appointment of Rosengren, who before Sandvik was CEO of Wartsila which makes and services power sources for the marine and energy markets.

"From his previous leading roles in several companies, he has a proven track record in driving a decentralised culture, improving performance and delivering value," said Johan Forssell, CEO of Investor, which holds 11.2% of ABB.

Activist shareholder Cevian Captital, ABB's second-biggest investor which campaigned for power grids to be sold, said: "We fully support the appointment of Bjorn Rosengren ... He has the right experience and leadership style to successfully drive ABB’s transformation and strategy." (Reporting by John Revill Editing by Tassilo Hummel and David Holmes)

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