Uniwheels

Debt as Spare Tire

Uniwheels' brand ATS supplies rims to supercar maker Fahlke Larea. Source: ATS
Uniwheels' brand ATS supplies rims to supercar maker Fahlke Larea.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Corporate bonds introduced in 2010 were meant to make it easier for smaller German firms to tap the capital markets.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Uniwheels produces aluminum rims for premium carmakers.
    • The company is one of the few success stories for bonds for Germany’s small and mid-sized companies known as the Mittelstand.
    • Uniwheels paid back its debt early after weathering the tough times.
  • Audio

    Audio

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The setting for Uniwheels’ headquarters could hardly be more spectacular: hilly vineyards reach right up to the company’s property in Bad Dürkheim in southwestern Germany.

“In the summertime here, I ask myself why people travel to Tuscany,” said Ralf Schmid, owner and head of the specialty car wheel rim maker.

In January, the vineyards are leafless and barren. But the company, which is one of Europe’s biggest producers of wheels, knows how to get through the lean times.

In fact, the maker of rim brands like ATS, Rial, Alutec and Anzio is one of the few success stories for Germany’s corporate debt market for small and mid-sized companies known as the Mittelstand.

When they were introduced in 2010, there were high hopes for the mini-bonds. They were supposed to make it easier for smaller German firms to tap the capital markets.

But then came the insolvencies of bicycle maker Mifa, the soup company Zamek and even the cruise ship MS Deutschland. The Mittelstand bonds, created by the Stuttgart Stock Exchange, are moribund after burning some €250 million ($280 million) in investor cash.

But the look back is more positive at Uniwheels.

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