Power technologies company ABB (NYSE:ABB) is getting a new executive to oversee its North American operations, headquartered in Cary.

Effective Nov. 1, Greg Scheu will oversee North America, including the U.S. market, ABB’s largest geographical market. The change comes as Switzerland-based ABB makes changes to put a stronger emphasis on integrating its acquisitions and expanding its business portfolio in North America.

Scheu currently oversees marketing and customer solutions on ABB’s executive committee. He will continue to be responsible for ABB’s service business while the his remaining responsibilities will be taken up by other members of the executive committee.

Enrique Santacana, currently who is currently the top ABB executive for the U.S. market and the regional manager for the North and South America regions, will now focus on South America.

Scheu joined ABB in 2001 and has 29 years of experience in the power and automation industry. His work experience includes positions at Rockwell Automation and Westinghouse Electric.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to lead ABB’s North America business, global acquisition integration and service businesses,” Scheu said in a statement. “I look forward to taking these important areas to the next level of profitable growth.”

Scheu will be based at ABB’s Cary offices. The company employs more than 2,000 in North Carolina including about 700 in the Triangle. It’s North Carolina facilities include an R&D site on Centennial Campus as well as the company’s North American headquarters in Cary.


The new leadership for ABB’s North American operations comes as the company makes other executive changes. CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer, one month into his new job, told Bloomberg News that he will extend the strategy of his predecessor that helped earnings beat estimates and add extra focus on driving sales across units. Spiesshofer succeeds former CEO Joe Hogan, who stepped down in May citing personal reasons.

The integration of $10 billion of acquisitions and penetrating deeper into existing markets are current priorities for the world’s largest maker of power transformers, Spiesshofer said. Spiesshofer is taking on the top job at the Zurich-based company as it prospers from takeovers in the U.S. and the addition of electric motors, low-voltage gear products and solar inverters to its portfolio. China and Germany bolstered ABB’s orders in the third quarter. By contrast, a CEO switch at rival Siemens AG comes at a more challenging time, marked by abandoned targets and lost market share.

“I don’t think it’s terribly radical, but it’s sensible and a logical extension of what his predecessor did,” said Andrew Bell, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Ltd. “The ability to collaborate, to cross-sell, to find solutions, to improve penetration across your product range, and to make customers more aware of you, will improve pricing power.”

M&A Payback

The $8 billion purchases of Thomas & Betts and Baldor Electric, orchestrated by then-CEO Joe Hogan, brought greater exposure to the U.S., where the economy is faring better than in Europe. Third-quarter net income rose 10 percent to $835 million, beating an average $789.4 million estimate of 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

ABB’s current structure will remain intact, and those cost- cutting and efficiency-boosting measures that Hogan, aided by Spiesshofer, introduced during the 2008 financial crisis will remain in place.
“Market penetration will be a key element that we really drive — and that might be a key difference between Joe and myself,” he said.

Hunting Grounds

Spiesshofer said there’s more room for “disciplined M&A,” flagging plans to grow organically and through deals in subsea power and control technologies for the oil and gas industry, car charging infrastructure, and in solar photovoltaic technologies.

Purchases have helped buoy results as some markets remained stagnant in 2013. Third-quarter sales rose 8 percent to $10.5 billion, also beating analyst estimates. There are now signs of a recovery, with ABB’s base orders — smaller contracts of less than $15 million that are the backbone of sales, growing in the quarter for the first time this year.

“Large orders are still a little bit slower in the pick- up,” Spiesshofer said in a video on ABB’s website. “We have some delay in decision-making in Europe, some delay in decision- making in the mining industry.”

Steady Transition

Spiesshofer has enjoyed a steadier transition into the top job than Joe Kaeser who took over Munich-based competitor Siemens AG in July after the ousting of Peter Loescher. Siemens plans to eliminate 15,000 posts, or 4 percent of its 370,000 workers worldwide, to catch up in profitability with rivals General Electric Co. and ABB.

ABB has made “good progress” against its 2011 to 2015 goals and will continue to work towards the targets, Spiesshofer said today. The Swiss company targets compound annual sales growth of 7 to 10 percent between 2011 and 2015, and operational earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization margin of 13 to 19 percent over the same period.

Before Thursday, shares of ABB had risen 17 percent this year, compared with a 16 percent gain for Germany’s Siemens AG.

(Bloomberg News contributed to this report)