Wienerberger AG History
Telephone: (43) 1 601 920
Fax: (43) 1 601 92466
Sales: EUR 1.76 billion ($2.2 billion) (2003)
Stock Exchanges: Vienna
Ticker Symbol: WIE
NAIC: 327331 Concrete Block and Brick Manufacturing; 327390 Other Concrete Product Manufacturing; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies
Mission Statement: "Building Value" for Investors, Customers and Employees. We are focused on those areas where we are among the best in the world--our core business bricks and roof tiles. Brick is a sustainable product. Building with bricks represents a wise economic and ecological investment in the future. Our primary goal is to create a long-term, balanced increase in value for our shareholders, customers, and employees. Continual improvement is the requirement for above-average performance. Our motto: grow, but also optimize. We are competitive because we are a multi-cultural company. We are successful because our employees act like entrepreneurs. We believe in people. Bricks by Wienerberger. Designed for Living.
- Alois Miesback founds a brick factory on Wienerbergstrasse in Vienna.
- Nephew Heinrich Drasche takes over after Miesbach's death.
- The company reincorporates as a public limited liability company, Wienerberger Ziegelfabriks- und- Bausgesellschaft, and becomes one of the first firm to list on the Vienna Stock Exchange.
- Wienerberger loses its operations in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere after the collapse of Austro-Hungarian Empire.
- Wienerbergstrasse is destroyed by bombs.
- The company acquires Bramac concrete tiles.
- Wienerberger begins internationalization with purchase of Germany's Oltmanns-Gruppe.
- The company attempts diversification with Pipelife joint venture and the acquisition of Trebacher Chemische Werke and OAG Group.
- Wienerberger expands into Eastern Europe.
- The company acquires Sturm Group in France.
- Wienerberger acquires Terca, in Belgium, and a majority stake in Semmelrock in Austria.
- The company acquires General Shale in the United States and becomes the world's leading brick manufacturer.
- Wienerberger divests itself of the last of its diversified holdings to become a pure play building materials group.
Wienerberger AG is the world's leading manufacturer of bricks, including hollow bricks and facing bricks. The company dominates the brick market, with a number one position in hollow bricks worldwide, the lead in the European facing brick market, and the number two spot in facing bricks in the United States. Wienerberger produces its hollow bricks under the Porotherm and Poroton brands in Europe. Facing bricks are marketed under the Terca brand in Europe and through subsidiary General Shale in the United States. Wienerberger is also one of the world's leading manufacturers of concrete pavers. The company's Semmelrock division holds the number one position in Europe for that segment. In the mid-2000s, Wienerberger added a second core operation, roofing systems, in order to balance out its bricks business. To this end, the company acquired Belgium's Koramic, the leading roofing systems company in Europe, in 2004. Other roofing systems subsidiaries include ZZ Wancor, in Switzerland, and Bramac and Tondach Gleinstatten, both of which are active in Central and Eastern Europe. Wienerberger has a manufacturing presence in nearly 25 countries, with a total of some 235 plants under operation in 2005. The company has been engaged on an active expansion program. In 2004 alone the company spent approximately EUR 540 million on investments and has announced plans to spend at least EUR 250 million in 2005. Wienerberger is listed on the Austrian Stock exchange. In 2004, the company posted revenues of 1.76 billion.
Austrian Industrial Giant in the Early 19th Century
Alois Miesbach was 29 years old when he decided to launch a company manufacturing bricks in 1819. A native of Mähren, Miesbach built a factory on the Wienerbergstrasse in Vienna. Over the next 40 years, Miesbach's company developed into one of the region's largest and became a primary source of employment for workers from the Böhmen region. As his business grew, Miesbach continued to add new capacity, and during this period the company built Europe's largest brickworks. By the time Miesbach died in 1857, his company operated nine brickworks, a clay plant, and several coal mines. Miesbach's company also entered the construction sector, building a number of homes and buildings in the Vienna area.
Miesbach's nephew, Heinrich Drasche, took over at the company and continued its expansion. Among other achievements, the company added more than 400 new houses outside of the city center, as well as ten new houses on Vienna's exclusive Ringstrasse, under Drasche's leadership. Other buildings constructed by the company using its bricks was the famed Heinrichhof, built in 1868. That building was destroyed during World War II.
The Wienerberger Ziegelfabriks- und- Bausgesellschaft, as the company came to be known, incorporated as a limited liability company in 1869, and became one of the first Austrian companies to list its stock on the Vienna Stock Exchange. Joining the company's board of directors at this time was architect Heinrich Freiherr von Ferstel. The association with von Ferstel led the company to build such important Viennese structures as the Wiener Votivkirche and the Palais Ferstel.
In addition to brick manufacturing and construction, Wienerberger added a number of other businesses, including that of ornamental sculptures. These sculptures became a major export product for the company and were found in many European capitals. This activity continued until World War II.
Challenges and Achievements in the 20th Century
The 20th century represented an extended period of ups and downs for Wienerberger. Into the new century, the company continued expanding, adding plants beyond Austria and into such regions as Czechoslovakia, Croatia, and Hungary. Yet with the end of World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Wienerberger lost most of its foreign operations. The company rebuilt around its core Austrian holdings, especially its huge Wienerbergstrasse factory. This facility was bombed during World War II, however, resulting in the deaths of many company employees as well as the destruction of much of its manufacturing plant.
The postwar years, and the reconstruction of Austria amid a general economic boom, brought new growth to Wienerberger. By the mid-1950s, the company had rebuilt its production capacity and had begun achieving record levels. In the early 1970s, Wienerberger began branching out, buying up Bramac, a manufacturer of concrete tiles in 1972. The company also expanded its production capacity in general, with 11 factories in operation at the end of the decade.
On the whole, however, the company appeared to have lost its momentum, particularly during the economic downturn of the 1970s. At the end of the decade, Wienerberger, despite being a major Austrian industrial company, remained almost entirely focused on its domestic market. Meanwhile, the difficult recession years had led Wienerberger to seek financial backing, and during this time the company came under majority control of Bank Austria Creditanstalt.
The company's fortunes began to change in the early 1980s, when a new management team launched a restructuring of the company's operations and developed a new expansion strategy that targeted a leading position in the European market. After consolidating its Austrian presence, the company turned toward the international market in the middle of the decade.
A significant point in the group's development came in 1986, when Wienerberger acquired Germany's Oltmanns-Gruppe. With that purchase, Wienerberger became a major player in the European brick market, with more than 200 factories. Meanwhile, Wienerberger had been diversifying its operations, expanding into such areas as the manufacturing of clay pipe. The company's interests in piping were expanded in 1989 with the launch of its Pipelife joint venture. That year, Wienerberger also entered the metallurgy and abrasives market with the purchase of a stake in Treibacher Chemische Werke. In addition, Wienerberger purchased the OAG Group, a wholesaler of sanitary fixtures.
Acquisitions played an important role in Wienerberger's growth into Austria's largest industrial group. Into the 1990s, the company made a number of significant acquisitions, including a stake in paving systems specialists Semmelrock, based in Austria. In the early 1990s, Wienerberger targeted expansion in the newly opening Eastern European markets, starting with Hungary in 1990.
New management at the beginning of the 1990s put in place a new strategy emphasizing, on the one hand, Wienerberger's continuing expansion and, on the other hand, a streamlining of its operations around a narrower core of bricks and paving tiles. As part of the effort, the company divested much of its diversified holdings, including the OAG Group in 1994, Treibacher Schleifmittel in 1997, as well as real estate assets and other operations. The sale of a parking garage business, Wipark, and the remainder of Treibacher Industries in 2000, completed Wienerberger's transformation into a pure play building materials business.
The mid-1990s saw Wienerberger's push into the global big leagues. In 1995, the company went to France to purchase the Sturm Group, followed by the acquisition of Terca. That purchase gave the company the leading share of the facing brick market in Belgium and the Netherlands. Also in 1996, the company acquired majority control of Semmelrock.
By the end of the decade, Wienerberger claimed the number one position in the European brick market. In 1999, the company shot to the top of the global ranks after acquiring the U.S. firm General Shale Inc. as well as Switzerland's ZZ Wancor, and, through its Pipelife joint venture, Mabo, which focused on the Scandinavian market.
Continued Expansion in the 2000s
Wienerberger boosted its U.S. presence in 2000, acquiring Cherokee Sanford, based in Sanford, North Carolina, then the largest privately owned brick manufacturer in the United States. The purchase added five brick plants, with a total capacity of 375 million bricks per year.
Wienerberger showed no sign of letting up the pace into mid-decade. In 2001, the company bought Optiroc's brick division, the leading producer of bricks in the Scandinavian region. That year, the company also acquired Germany's number two producer, Megalith, for EUR 47 million. These acquisitions were followed up by the purchase of family-owned Brada Baksteen NV in the Netherlands and the continental European brick business of Hanson Plc in 2002. Also in that year, Wienerberger made its entry into the United Kingdom, buying up that country's number three brick maker, thebrickbusiness.
With its brick business now ranked number one worldwide, Wienerberger moved to create a second core business, that of roofing tile systems, in 2003. For this, the company bought a 50 percent stake in Koramic Roofing, the number two player in the European roofing systems sector. The company also announced its intention to acquire full control of Koramic in the near future. Wienerberger also moved toward becoming a free float company when main shareholder Bank Austria Creditanstalt sold its holding in the company, a process completed in 2004.
In the meantime, Wienerberger's expansion continued. In 2004, the company spent some EUR 540 million on acquisitions and further expansion, including the Koramic purchase and several new acquisitions in the United States, as well as a number of investments deepening the group's presence in Central and Eastern Europe. Wienerberger's transformation from a primarily domestic company to global player had been dramatic. By 2005, international operations accounted for 97 percent of the group's total revenues. Wienerberger made it clear that it expected its expansion to continue, announcing plans to spend "at least" EUR 250 million on new expansion in 2005.
Principal Subsidiaries: Bramac Dachsysteme International GmbH; General Shale Building Materials Inc. (United States); Koramic Roofing Products N.V. (Belgium); Pipelife International GmbH; Semmelrock Baustoffindustrie GmbH; Tondach Gleinstätten AG; Wienerberger Bricks B.V. (Netherlands); Wienerberger Bricks N.V. (Belgium); Wienerberger Ceramika Budowlana Sp.z.o.o. (Poland); Wienerberger cihlárský prumysl, a.s. (Czech Republic); Wienerberger Teglaipari Rt (Hungary); Wienerberger Ziegelindustrie GmbH; Wienerberger Ziegelindustrie GmbH (Germany); ZZ Wancor (Switzerland).
Principal Competitors: Anglo American plc; Lafarge S.A.; Central Pre-Mix Concrete Company Inc.; Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas S.A.; Hanson plc; Eurovia S.A; Glen-Gery Corporation; Imerys Ltd.; Rinker Group Ltd.; FLS Industries A/S; Tarmac Ltd.
- Bulkeley, Andrew, "Brick Giant Bulks Up," Daily Deal, January 11, 2003.
- Hall, Eric, and William Frey, "Wienerberger Seen as a Bid Target," Financial Times, April 17, 2000, p. 28.
- Pesola, Maija, "Butterflies All Round as Brick Behemoth Stalks the Sector," Financial Times, October 9, 2004, p. 4.
- Simonian, Haig. "Building on a Growth Strategy," Financial Times, October 25, 2004, p. 4.
- ------, "Rapid Expansion Boosts Wienerberger," The Financial Times, November 17, 2004, p. 28.
- ------, "Wienerberger on Hunt for acquisitions," Financial Times, February 16, 2005, p. 29.
- "Wienerberger Plans to Expand in Germany," Handelsblatt, September 30, 2003.
- "Wienerberger Storms into UK Brick Market," Contract Journal, October 6, 2004, p. 14.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 70. St. James Press, 2005.