Schmolz + Bickenbach

Steelmaker Showing Signs of Rust

World steel prices have collapsed in the past few months.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Global steel prices are collapsing, leading to the closure of steel plants and consolidation of many steel giants. Schmolz + Bickenbach is particularly unprepared.

  • Facts


    • Schmolz + Bickenbach is a 100-year-old German steel trader and producer.
    • The firm produces about 600 special steels that are found in 30,000 products including valves, injection nozzles and surgical equipment.
    • Its profit goal this year is €160 million ($172), about €100 million below last year’s figure.
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The German-Swiss steel company Schmolz + Bickenbach is in debt and bedeviled by a weak market. Worse, its two-person management board seems ineffectual at best. Perhaps this is why the firm’s current crisis is showing no sign of ending.

The board members are chief executive Clemens Iller and finance officer Matthias Wellhausen. They show tough determination, but their decisions in many cases seem counterproductive.

One example is the sale of the firm’s marketing subsidiary, which had annual revenues of about €600 million ($644.2 million), to the French company Jacquet Metal Service. One manager complained that not only did the firm have to write off €123.7 million, but it also lost an important marketing channel for its steel products.

The move of the holding company from Düsseldorf in northern Germany to Switzerland has also imposed burdens. Schmolz + Bickenbach, founded almost 100 years ago by Arthur Schmolz and Oswald Bickenbach, had its home in the Rhineland region of western Germany. Since the acquisition of Swiss Steel more than 10 years ago, Schmoz + Bickenbach has had a foothold in Switzerland, but with its strong franc currency, the country is a high-priced location.

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