Restructuring at Fortum

Fortum of Finland is to implement a number of structural changes to its power plant engineering and consulting unit that will bring job losses of 350. The move is in response to the decline in demand for large-scale power plants in Europe.

Fortum is to move its nuclear power and hydropower engineering activities from its Engineering business unit to its Power and Heat unit and its Service unit, respectively. Fortum Engineering will also start negotiations to implement staff cuts, involving 150 people in Finland and around 200 people in overseas units.

Fortum Engineering, which designs and constructs power plants and provides consulting services to the power industry, currently operates in over 50 countries. The staff cuts will be implemented gradually and may be revised later.

Schneider-Legrand agree merger terms

Schneider Electric and the Legrand Group have agreed to merge in a move that could see the creation of a world leader in the low tension electricity and automation markets. The deal requires the approval of Legrand shareholders as well as the European Commission.

Schneider’s friendly takeover bid for Legrand values Legrand at $7.9bn, and will create a company with a market capitalization of a17bn ($16bn) and a pro-forma net income of a840m. The merger, if approved, is expected to generate synergies of a210m by 2003.

The two companies have highly complementary products and geographic spread in the low voltage sector. If the European Commission approves the merger, the new company – Schneider Legrand – is likely to be forced to sell some of its business interests. Schneider Legrand will derive 50 per cent of its sales from Europe.

H Power Corp. down but on track for commercialization

Fuel Cell development company H Power Corp. has reported a rise in first half losses and has reached two key milestones in its primary goal of commercial fuel cell production in the second half of 2001.

For the first six months of fiscal 2001, net revenues rose four per cent to $1.99m and the company reported net losses of $7.58m compared with losses of $3.78m for the same period last year. Second quarter revenues from product sales rose 51 per cent to $473 000.

CEO H. Frank Gibbard announced that the company has shipped its first prototype beta unit to ECO Fuel Cells for testing, and has signed a lease on a manufacturing facility that will enable it to start commercial production of its fuel cells in late 2001.

ECO, an association of rural electric cooperatives, has signed an agreement with H Power to market its fuel cells across the USA. H Power is contracted to start shipment of the fuel cells to ECO in the second half of 2001, with delivery of 12 300 units within 30 months of delivery of its tenth commercial unit.

H Power is also following an aggressive cost-reduction programme to reduce the cost of its fuel cell subsystems and components.

Weir targets US

Scotland-based Weir Group has appointed six new distributors as part of a major drive to increase sales in the US power generation market. Weir, which manufactures pumps and valves, hopes to increase market share for established products and market penetration for new ranges.

Weir Valves and Controls has appointed the new distributors to strengthen its local presence and product support. It will soon add new products to its portfolio, including two new ranges of safety valves, and new control valve, actuator and pulsation damper lines

Weir Pump’s sister company, Hazleton Pumps, has won orders worth $600 000 in its first month of operation in the US.

ABB creates New Ventures division

ABB’s new President and CEO, Jàƒ¶rgen Centermann, has announced a realignment of ABB’s business and the creation of a New Ventures division to act as an “incubator” for new technology and business opportunities. The move is designed to boost growth by being customer, rather than product, focused.

ABB is to restructure its organization around four customer segments: Utilities, Process Industries, Manufacturing and Consumer Industries, and Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals. In addition, two product segments, Power Technology Products and Automation Technology Products, will serve all of the new business units alongside the existing Financial Services Group.

The New Ventures unit will foster technology development from within ABB. “New technologies continue to be a key driver of growth for us,” said Centermann, who took over from Gàƒ¶ran Lindahl on 1 January 2001.

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