The Alba Group is Germany’s second-largest waste management company, with 8,000 employees in Europe, the United States and Asia. It specializes in providing across-the-board services, from clearing waste to recycling and logistics. In 2013, it had a turnover of €2.6 billion ($2.9 billion).
However, the Berlin-based company, has recently been struggling with losses. It is co-owned by brothers Axel and Eric Schweitzer, and last week Axel made a surprise visit to Handelsblatt’s Düsseldorf office where he dropped a bombshell: he wants to sell a minority holding.
Mr. Schweitzer, the Alba Group seems to be in bad shape. In the just-published 2013 annual report there is a gaping double-digit shortfall. Are you still able to sleep comfortably at night?
Axel Schweitzer: It’s now 2015, and I’m still sleeping very well. We’ve undertaken many things and are seeing the first results from them, I view the future with confidence. The year 2013 was the worst year in the company’s history. As scrap metal recyclers, the crisis in the steel and metal markets hit us hard. Things have improved in the meantime.
You must have a special brand of optimism. Not only are operations not running smoothly, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s is concerned about your liquidity.
The rating from S&P has to do with the special situation of the external shareholders of our listed subsidiary, Alba SE [Alba’s intermediate holding company]. They have a sellback right, which some of them surprisingly took advantage of last fall. All told, around 7 percent of the shares were sold back to us so that we now own close to 93 percent of the Cologne-based company.
Naturally, that unexpectedly tied up a lot of money. But even if we were forced to take back the remaining 7 percent of the shares, it wouldn’t put us in a fix. We have sufficient liquidity.