Trying Something New Metro’s Largest Shareholder Haniel on the Lookout for Non-Retail Investments

Haniel Chief Executive Stephan Gemkow considers diversifying the group’s investments by expanding into other industries. But which ones?
Stephan Gemkow, chief executive at Franz Haniel Holding.

Haniel, an investment holding company owned by one of Germany’s wealthiest families, is looking to change the balance of its portfolio by striking out into new directions.

“We have to get involved in businesses outside the retail sector,” said Stephan Gemkow, chief executive of Haniel.

Retail makes up the majority of Haniel’s holdings which are dominated by a 30 percent share of Metro, Europe’s largest retailer, making the Haniel family the single largest shareholder in the retail giant. Its other holdings are textile services provider CWS-boco and the raw materials trader ELG, as well as 50 percent of Takkt, a business equipment firm.

“Haniel will not look the same in five years’ time as it did five years ago,” Mr. Gemkow said.

Mr. Gemkow has some money to spend.

Haniel will not look the same in five years’ time as it did five years ago Stephan Gemkow

At the start of the year McKesson, a healthcare services business from the United States, acquired Celesio, a pharmaceutical wholesaler from Germany. Haniel, a major Celesio shareholder, gained €2 billion ($2.6 billion). The money came at a good time for Haniel to pay its debts and invest in new directions.

Ratings agency Moody’s had downgraded Haniel in 2011 stating that it relied too heavily on its share of Metro and needed to balance its portfolio. After it sold Celesio, Haniel’s retail holdings become even more prominent.

Mr. Gemkow’s strategy appears to be different. He will not likely acquire shares in large listed businesses nor is he expected to take on the risk associated with start-ups. Instead a company publication about trends provided some hints as to Mr. Gemkow’s thinking.

“We are interested in light production and technical services,” he said. This could be anything from transport infrastructure to healthcare logistics to machine construction.

Mr. Gemkow suggested that in the past, Haniel had done plenty of analysis about possible trends. But perhaps it had not moved forward enough based on those insights. That appears to be changing.