ABB Ltd. History

P.O. Box 8131
CH-8050 Zurich

Telephone: (043) 317 7111
Fax: (043) 317 7958

Public Company
Incorporated: 1988 as ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd.
Employees: 116,464
Sales: $18.80 billion (2003)
Stock Exchanges: Swiss London Stockholm Frankfurt New York
Ticker Symbol: ABB
NAIC: 334416 Electronic Coil, Transformer, and Other Inductor Manufacturing; 334513 Instruments and Related Products Manufacturing for Measuring, Displaying, and Controlling Industrial Process Variables; 334514 Totalizing Fluid Meter and Counting Device Manufacturing; 335311 Power, Distribution, and Specialty Transformer Manufacturing; 335999 All Other Miscellaneous Electrical Equipment and Component Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. We are present in around 100 countries. We leverage our technology leadership, global presence, application knowledge and local expertise to offer products and services that allow our customers to optimize their operations. Our integration platform, Industrial IT, enables our customers to manage their installations better and link up in real time with their own suppliers and customers. The result is a leap in efficiency, quality and competitiveness. We focus on our core businesses in power and automation technologies and have simplified our organization. This ensures that our customers have quick and easy access to ABB's offerings, when and where they need us--whether they buy from us directly or through distributors, wholesalers, system integrators or other partners. Our businesses work together with one simple and seamless set of values for customers.

Key Dates:

Ludwig Fredholm establishes Elektriska Aktiebolaget in Stockholm as a manufacturer of electrical lighting and generators.
Elektriska Aktiebolaget merges with Wenströms & Granströms Elektriska Kraftbolag to form Allmä-a Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget (name later shortened to ASEA AB).
Charles E.L. Brown and Walter Boveri establish BBC Brown Boveri in 1891 in Baden, Switzerland; initially known as Brown, Boveri & Cie, the company's early activities include manufacturing electrical components such as electrical motors for locomotives and power-generating equipment for Europe's railway systems.
ASEA provides the electric locomotives and converter equipment for the first electric trains on the Stockholm-Gothenburg line.
After receiving an order to build Sweden's first full-scale nuclear power station, ASEA merges its nuclear division with the state-owned Atom-Energi to form ASEA Atom.
Percy Barnevik is named ASEA's managing director and initiates a major reorganization, placing greater emphasis on such areas as robotics, state-of-the-art electronics, and automation technologies.
ASEA purchases full control of ASEA Atom.
ASEA and Brown Boveri merge the assets of their respective companies, forming ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd.; the new entity, based in Zurich, is 50-50 owned by ASEA and Brown Boveri.
ABB acquires the power transmission and power distribution systems business of Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

Early 1990s:Company makes concerted push into eastern European and Asian markets.
ABB merges its rail transportation unit with that of Germany's Daimler-Benz AG to form ABB Daimler-Benz Transportation GmbH (ADtranz), a 50-50 joint venture; ABB's parent companies change their names, ASEA becoming ABB AB and Brown Boveri becoming ABB AG.
Elsag Bailey Process Automation N.V. is acquired in a $2.1 billion deal.
Half interest in ADtranz is sold to DaimlerChrysler AG; ABB merges its power generation business with that of ALSTOM to create ABB Alstom Power; parent companies ABB AB and ABB AG are merged as ABB Ltd., whose stock begins trading on the Zurich, Stockholm, London, and Frankfurt exchanges.
ABB sells its nuclear power operations to BNFL Inc. and its interest in ABB Alstom Power to ALSTOM.
$470 million charge for asbestos liabilities contributes to $691 million net loss for the year--the first of three straight years in the red.
ABB restructures to focus on two core businesses: power technologies and automation; structured-finance unit is sold to General Electric.
"Prepackaged" bankruptcy plan is offered for Combustion Engineering that would cap asbestos liabilities at $1.2 billion; ABB's capital base is strengthened by more than $4 billion.

Company History:

Further Reading:

  • "The ABB of Management," Economist, January 6, 1996, p. 56.
  • "All Over?," Economist, October 26, 2002, p. 56.
  • Andrews, Edmund L., "ABB Will Cut 10,000 Jobs and Switch Focus to Asia," New York Times, October 22, 1997, p. 2D.
  • Barham, Kevin, and Claudia Heimer, ABB, the Dancing Giant: Creating the Globally Connected Corporation, London: Financial Times/Pitman, 1998, 382 p.
  • "Barnevik's Bounty," Economist, March 2, 2002, p. 58.
  • Bilefsky, Dan, "Chief Dormann Shakes Up ABB Corporate Culture," Wall Street Journal Europe, January 22, 2004, p. A6.
  • Bilefsky, Dan, and Anita Raghavan, "Blown Fuse: How 'Europe's GE' and Its Star CEO Tumbled to Earth," Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2003, p. A1+.
  • Brown-Humes, Christopher, et al., "From Admired to Mired: A Powerhouse Adrift," Financial Times, March 11, 2002, p. 30.
  • Ehrenkrona, Olof, Nicolin: En svensk historia, Stockholm: Timbro, 1991.
  • Evans, Richard, "Back from the Brink," Barron's, October 25, 1999, pp. 26, 28.
  • Fink, Ronald, "The Tortoise Doesn't Always Win," Financial World, September 27, 1994, pp. 22, 24.
  • Fleming, Charles, "ABB Earmarks $1.5 Billion to Purchase Elsag Bailey," Wall Street Journal Europe, October 15, 1998, p. 3.
  • ------, "New Chairman of ABB Aims to Tighten Business Focus," Wall Street Journal Europe, November 23, 2001, p. 5.
  • ------, "Percy Who? ABB's Top Officer Rapidly Re-engineers Engineering Giant," Wall Street Journal Europe, December 15, 1999, p. 1.
  • "A Great Leap, Preferably Forward," Economist, January 20, 2001, p. 65.
  • Gumbel, Peter, "Daimler to Pay $900 Million to ABB As They Merge Railroad Operations," Wall Street Journal, March 17, 1995, p. 6A.
  • Guyon, Janet, "ABB Fuses Units with One Set of Values: Managers Get Global Strategies to Work Locally," Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1996, p. 15A.
  • Hall, William, and Dan Roberts, "How a Toxic Mixture of Asbestos Liabilities and Plummeting Demand Poisoned an Industrial Powerhouse," Financial Times, October 23, 2002, p. 17.
  • Hofheinz, Paul, "Yes, You Can Win in Eastern Europe," Fortune, May 16, 1994, pp. 110-12.
  • "Is It a Bird? Is It a Manager?" Economist, May 3, 1997, pp. 53-54.
  • Kapstein, Jonathan, and Dean Foust, "An Insider Caper in Liechtenstein," Business Week, December 11, 1989, pp. 58-59.
  • Karlgaard, Rich, "Percy Barnevik," Forbes ASAP, December 5, 1994, pp. 65-68.
  • Kets de Vries, Manfred F.R., with Elizabeth Florent-Treacy, The New Global Leaders: Richard Branson, Percy Barnevik, and David Simon, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999, 188 p.
  • Lang, Norbert, Charles E.L. Brown, 1863-1924, Walter Boveri, 1865-1924: Gründer eines Weltunternehmens, Meilen, Switzerland: Verein für Wirtschaftshistorische Studien Meilen, 1992, 95 p.
  • Michaels, Daniel, "ABB Showcases Growing Share of Poland's Market," Wall Street Journal, March 1, 1996, p. 5A.
  • Morais, Richard C., "ABB Reenergized," Forbes, August 23, 1999, pp. 58, 61.
  • "Mr. Barnevik, Aren't You Happy Now?," Business Week, September 27, 1993, p. 128L.
  • "Neither Lender Nor Borrower Be," Economist, March 30, 2002, p. 54.
  • Rapoport, Carla, "A Tough Swede Invades the U.S.," Fortune, June 29, 1992, pp. 76-79.
  • Reed, Stanley, "The Wallenbergs' New Blood," Business Week, October 20, 1997, pp. 98, 102.
  • Reed, Stanley, and Michael Arndt, "Work Your Magic, Herr Dormann," Business Week, February 10, 2003, p. 46.
  • Smart, Tim, and Gail Edmondon, "Slow Boil for ABB in the U.S.," Business Week, September 12, 1994, pp. 72-73.
  • Taylor, William, "The Logic of Global Business: An Interview with ABB's Percy Barnevik," Harvard Business Review, March/April 1991.
  • Tomlinson, Richard, "Mission Impossible? Jürgen Dormann's Job: To Save ABB from Itself," Fortune, November 18, 2002, pp. 147-48, 150, 152.
  • Wagstyl, Stefan, "Woven into the Fabric," Financial Times, January 10, 1996, p. 15.
  • Woodruff, David, and Charles Goldsmith, "Sour Sign-Off: A Final Pension Move Soils High Standing of Top European CEO," Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2002, p. A1+.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 65. St. James Press, 2004.