Restructuring of the Group: from VOEST-ALPINE STAHL AG to voestalpine AG
The privatization of VOEST-ALPINE STAHL AG begins in October 1995 with the sale of 31.7 percent of the Republic of Austria’s shares on the stock exchange. BÖHLER-UDDEHOLM AG also goes public the same year.
A number of acquisitions are made in this period. In 1998, for example, the VOEST-ALPINE KREMS Group acquires METSEC plc, a British company, to buttress its already leading position in the European steel sections and precision tubes segment. In 2001, voestalpine motion gmbh acquires the Dutch automotive supplier Polynorm N.V.; it is the largest acquisition to date in the history of the voestalpine Group. The Railway Systems Division, in turn, expands its market leadership by taking over Thyssen Schienen Technik GmbH (TSTG), Duisburg, Germany. In 1998, however, the VOEST-ALPINE STAHL Group’s attempt to acquire PREUSSAG STAHL AG (Salzgitter, Germany) fails because German politicians intervene to block the transaction.
Up until 1998, the voestalpine Group continues to both enhance its product mix and expand the share of processing operations.
Investments during this period comprise the following projects and facilities among others:
- At VOEST-ALPINE STAHL Linz GmbH, the casthouse dedusting system of Blast Furnace A and the new gas and steam turbines for the generation of electricity and industrial steam in the power plant are started up in 1995 and 1996, respectively. The turbines are both an economic and an environmental milestone (reduction of nitrogen oxides), because they largely ensure the company’s energy self-sufficiency.
- A project involving a facility for manufacturing laser-welded blanks (sheet steel blanks for the automotive industry) is launched in Linz; the facility goes into operation in mid-1997, after merely one year of construction—a record.
- VOEST-ALPINE SCHIENEN GmbH & CO KG in Donawitz institutes a remodeling and expansion program in 1997 to strengthen its technology leadership.
- At VOEST-ALPINE STAHL LINZ GmbH, the continuous annealing line in Cold Rolling Mill II—a European milestone in continuous annealing technology—is started up in 1998, followed by Secondary Dedusting 2 in 1999 and a new vacuum system in LD Steel Plant 3 the following year.
- voestalpine Grobblech GmbH’s product launch in 2001 of innovative sour-gas-resistant linepipe plates is an important innovation.
- A modernization campaign is launched at the Donawitz site. Among other things, it includes the conversion in 2000 of the LD steel mill into a state-of-the-art LD compact steel plant and the decision in 2001 to invest in the modernization and expansion of rail production.
The employee shareholding scheme is implemented at the Group level from November 2001. Employees at the Group’s Austrian sites hold about four percent of the company’s shares.
The corporate structure is changed in 2001: dividing the Group into four divisions—Steel, Motion (renamed Automotive later on), Railway Systems, and Profilform—serves to fully align the Group’s activities in the direction of processing (as per the slogan, “More out of Steel”). This entails not just processing and finishing steel, but also extending the value chain in crucial ways to high-tech companies and niche providers. As before, the Group’s strategy focuses on quality instead of volume increases. Finally, the Group is renamed voestalpine AG: from this point forward, it pursues an umbrella brand strategy under the voestalpine brand.