Restructuring experts' study trip through Germany
The Kufstein University of Applied Sciences' Competence Center for Restructuring aims to strengthen the restructuring sector in Germany and Austria. Through successful restructuring projects and successfully implemented indicators for early detection of crises, as many companies as possible should continue to be able to compete on the market and secure jobs. The compulsory study trip took the students across the border to Germany from 4th to 7th February 2013. They visited interesting companies that recently implemented restructuring measures either in their own company or somehow were involved in such measures.
Schneider, Geiwitz & Partner in Neu-Ulm
The first company that the 13 members of the group visited was Schneider, Geiwitz & Partner in Neu-Ulm. There, they met Mr. Arndt Geiwitz and Mr. Patrick Wahren, both from WP/StB & Partner, who discussed the insolvency proceedings of the Schlecker group with the students.
Former owner Anton Schlecker had founded his company in 1975 and stayed with it up to its bankruptcy. He followed his own principles to a tee, which had once led him to success. However, in March 2012, the bankruptcy proceedings started and reached a level of fame such that the court-appointed liquidator, Arndt Geiwitz, was mentioned more often in the news than the German Chancellor. The public took part in the fate of the 36 000 female Schlecker employees. The unusually high public interest in this case made the support of a public relations agency necessary. Press office work became the most important internal communication tool.
Arndt Geiwitz did everything in his power to find an investor for Schlecker. The objective was to achieve the continuation of the trading company based on a changed concept. However, over the course of the fiscal year 2012, the company Anton Schlecker e.K and the subsidiary Schlecker XL GmbH was liquidated. The second subsidiary Ihr Platz GmbH & Co. KG was terminated after its single branches had been sold off.
However, this was not the end of liquidator Geiwitz' work. Many dismissal protection suits are still in limbo. The mandate can be considered completed only once all claims have been paid or once a settlement deal has been agreed upon.
Wellensiek Rechtsanwälte in Heidelberg
The second day of the study trip resulted in the students having an interesting conversation with Volker Büteröwe, PhD, in Heidelberg. There, at Rechtsanwalt & Partner from Wellensiek Rechtsanwälte, they learned about the main tasks of the law firm: receivership, in case of crises or restructuring cases representation or consultation of stakeholders, bankruptcy proceedings, and consultation of troubled businesses on restructuring and bankruptcy questions.
Main topics of the meeting were the various roles of a lawyer in bankruptcy proceedings from assisting council, consultant and fiduciary to formulating contracts. Büteröwe's explanations were an integrated addition to Arndt Geiwitz' presentation.
An assisting council is a lawyer in bankruptcy proceedings working in the same field as the court-appointed liquidator. Their task is to assist both parties. That way, issues related to the right of challenge or the recoverability of collateral can be prepared accordingly. For more specialized issues, additional advisers are consulted.
Mr. Büteröwe, PhD, also mentioned the setting up of a fiduciary model as an interesting alternative to the law amendment to regulate corporate restructuring (ESUG) that came into force on 1st March 2012 and in which German legislation expanded creditors' possibilities of influencing bankruptcy proceedings.
SAP AG in Walldorf
SAP AG is based in Walldorf and is one of Europe's largest and globally fourth-largest producer and developer of software for the company's handling of business processes. At SAP, the students had an appointment with Mr. Helmut Fink, Head of Strategic Business Development and Innovation, to talk about the post-merger integration at SAP AG.
SAP’s acquisition objective is the attracting of employees and technologies to develop SAP's business model continuously through new products and solutions. Each year, the target is three to four transactions, which are strategically prepared, on the basis of a five-year planning scheme.
Generally, post-merger integration is about adjusting the organization, the corporate culture, the value-added processes and the information systems to each other. Of particular importance are the identification of key players and the development of binding concepts. To avoid fluctuation, employees have to be kept properly informed.
The SAP AG visit ended with a tour through the SAP Inspiration Pavilion in which the company's development is visualized through impressive interactive media.
net SE in Koblenz
The second-last day of the journey brought the students to net SE, a product marketing and standard software company. Currently, net SE is listed at Munich's m:access, an inter-segmental trading platform, and has reached a market capitalization of approximately € 1.8m.
The students were met by Stefan Immes, PhD, who founded the group in times of the stock market segment New Market, and with it created a real story of success. Motivated by the idea of developing “SAP for the poor” and to bring the company to the stock market, in 1997, Immes founded ZTB AG which, two years later, was converted to net AG. One year later, it got its first listing.
Additional growth was achieved through business acquisitions even though not all of them were a success. This is why Immes warns of capturing synergies in M&A transactions and suggests listening to one's gut feeling.
Immes and all visitors agreed that, in times of New Economy, businesses were highly overvalued.
In 2010, the company was converted to the current net SE (Societas Europaea), a European joint stock company, thus allowing for the easy moving of the corporate headquarters within the EU.
Another highlight in the company's presentation was the stories about past stockholder meetings. At the beginning, it used to be normal to turn the meetings into big events. With decreasing market prices, there were always the usuals, self-appointed shareholder representatives eloquently presenting themselves, looking for procedural errors and threatening with actions of voidance to get representation allowances. To deal with such stakeholders professionally, Immes advises management and supervisory boards to practice adequate presentation at stockholder meetings.
For the future, he has many ideas, examples being apps and security system technology.
KPMG AG in Frankfurt
The last company the students visited was KPMG AG in Frankfurt where they met Mr. Peter Wiegand, partner and Head of Restructuring, Berlin, Mr. Florian Rieser and Mr. Knuth Hansen.
The restructuring consultants of KPMG support businesses with financial, operative and strategic restructuring or repositioning measures. Their consulting portfolio is divided into operative restructuring, financial restructuring, independent business review, integrated financial planning and creation of restructuring concepts.
Peter Wiegand is responsible for the KPMG's restructuring department, which, with around 90 employees, is among the big examples in the industry. Their business model differs from others in its holistic consulting approach.
Services range from IBR to the integration of tax and legal issues. Compared to some competitors, the KPMG consultants are not involved in corporate body’s liability mandates. However, according to Mr. Wiegand, this is a field that they should expand into.