The voestalpine Group from 2002 up to the Acquisition of Böhler-Uddeholm AG
In 2002, the Steel Division launches the largest investment program ever of an Austrian industrial company. The Linz 2010 program (which was initially supposed to run until 2010) entails an investment volume at the Linz site in excess of EUR two billion and enters its final phase in 2007, much earlier than planned. This expansion and modernization program encompasses new processing facilities, capacity increases, additional jobs, and a reduction in emissions—all with the aim of maintaining the company’s competitiveness in the long term and thus assuring the Linz site’s future.
At the heart of Linz 2010 is the relining and expansion of Blast Furnace A in the fall of 2004, which entails expanding the diameter of the furnace’s hearth from 10.5 meters to 12 meters. Associated facilities (including the sintering plant, the power plant, LD Steel Plant 3, the rolling mills, and the galvanizing lines) are aligned with this new production capacity. The decisions and planning related to the “L6” follow-up-project as well as the first steps to implement it also fall into this period. “L” signifies the Linz site and “6” the increase in the crude steel production capacity from roughly 5.4 million tons per annum to more than 6 million tons per annum.
In 2002, the company acquires Vossloh AG’s 45.3 percent stake in VAE. Both this acquisition and that of the remaining free-float shares (9.4 percent) turn voestalpine Bahnsysteme GmbH into the sole owner of the world’s leading manufacturer of turnouts.
voestalpine AG’s employee shareholding scheme is expanded to 6.4 percent in March 2003 and finally to about 10.5 percent in the fall of 2003.
In September of that year, voestalpine is fully privatized and a convertible bond for the remaining 15 percent of the stake still in government hands is issued. The bond is converted on August 31, 2005, with the result that from then on voestalpine is a public company. In addition, the “motion division“ is renamed the “Automotive Division” at the end of 2005.
In 2006, the world’s most modern rail rolling mill is started up in Donawitz. So-called “universal rolling technology” makes it possible not only to increase the flexibility of production, but also to continue expanding the site’s technology leadership in the special rails segment.
In 2007, voestalpine Grobblech GmbH (a company belonging to the Steel Division) lands the largest single order by far in its history. This order calls for the delivery of 200,000 tons of high-quality heavy plates that are turned into pipeline tubes for the most challenging section of the Nord Stream gas pipeline project that connects Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea.
Environmental awareness and consistent environmental management substantially reduce emissions despite growing production volumes. 2007 also sees the start-up in Linz of the so-called “maximized emission reduction of sintering” (MEROS) system—at the time the world’s most modern and powerful waste gas treatment system for sintering plants. It lowers emissions arising from the sintering line by 90 percent on average. The same year, a plastic injection system goes into operation in Blast Furnace A. Fossil-based reducing agents (such as heavy oil and coke) are replaced to a considerable degree by specially prepared plastic waste in pelletized form, thus further lowering both carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide emissions.
The Group attaches high priority to research, development, and innovation. In the fall of 2004, for example, a new research center is opened in Linz. voestalpine is one of the most research-intensive groups in the European Union. While it is ranked 175th overall in 2008, it is number one in Austria itself. The fact that voestalpine is ranked 10th worldwide among steel producers is of particular note in this connection. The Group also wins numerous environmental and safety awards.
It continues to expand its international footprint in the years leading up to 2008, for example, in Eastern Europe, India, China, Brazil, and Great Britain. In 2004, the VAE Group, for example, makes acquisitions in India, one of the fastest growing rail markets, to further strengthen its leading global position in both switches and turnout systems.
In 2008, the percentage of voestalpine shares held by employees under voestalpine’s existing employee shareholding scheme is raised to 11.3 percent.
2007 sees the voestalpine Group crossing a new threshold in terms of its size. voestalpine AG acquires the majority stake in BÖHLER-UDDEHOLM AG and operates the company as its Special Steel Division from July 1st. In the 2007/08 business year, the Group’s total workforce exceeds 41,000 employees—yet another landmark.
The remaining shares of BÖHLER-UDDEHOLM AG are acquired in 2008, turning the company into a wholly owned subsidiary of voestalpine. At revenues of EUR 11.7 billion, the 2008/09 business year is the best to date in the Group’s history.