House Cleaning

Bilfinger Taps Cost Cutter as CEO

Bilfinger factory
Bilfinger needs serious fixing.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The new chief executive faces the hard task of turning around the struggling company Bilfinger, after his predecessor, the German politician Robert Koch, failed.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Bilfinger made a net loss of €71 million in 2014.
    • The new chief executive Per Utnegaard is expected to turn around the ailing company Bilfinger.
    • Bilfinger’s biggest investor is Cevian with a stake of 26 percent.
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    Audio

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Bilfinger, Germany’s second-largest engineering and construction company, is poised to tap a Norwegian airport executive after a months-long search for someone to turn around the builder, which lost €71 million, or $80 million, in 2014.

As Handelsblatt reported earlier this month, Bilfinger’s chairman of the board and former Daimler executive Eckhard Cordes has chosen Per Utnegaard, who has been chief executive of airport services company Swissport International since 2007.

Mr. Utnegaard previously held senior management roles at Germany’s postal service Deutsche Post and at a rival courier TNT.

Bilfinger has not officially confirmed the choice.

But who is the man behind the colossal task to succeed Roland Koch, the former premier of the state of Hessen?

Mr. Utnegaard, 55, was schooled in the United States.

“Like any Scandinavian, Mr. Utnegaard is friendly, accessible and culturally sensitive,” said an industry source.

But behind the friendly demeanor is a disciplined and driven personality. “He is an extremely goal-oriented and decisive doer,” said the source.

Mr. Utnegaard also knows the private equity business, which could become significant as Bilfinger looks to restructure and potentially downsize.

The Norwegian manager is well-versed in the services industry and knows how to build a global company. At Swissport, Mr. Utnegaard built a reputation for being reliable and focusing on customer service.

At Bilfinger, which is based in Mannheim, Mr. Utnegaard must satisfy Bilfinger’s main investor, Cevian, which owns 25.62% of the company.

“It will be Mr. Utnegaard’s task to fulfill the expectations of the owners of the company,” said Rene Zurin, a manager at Swiss company VPOD, an association of public service employees.

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