ABB Avoids Talk About GE Industrial Purchase

ABB announced it has plans to expand its robot factory in Michigan, but beyond that, kept its strategy for the future vague.

        Ulrich Speisshofer

In an interview with Reuters, Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of ABB, said the demand for industrial robotics is expanding, so it will expand the work of the ABB Auburn Hills plant beyond the current 1,000 employees.  ABB sold its first robot in the United States last March. Spiesshofer told Reuters a major reason for the expansion is to allow U.S. carmakers to compete with the automation at plants in Germany and Japan. Spiesshofer also expects to see more American car makers building electric cars in the near future.

But, when it came to answering a question about the purchase of GE Industrial, Spiesshofer declined to comment, and instead focused on generalities in the overall ABB expansion plan.

There have been anonymous reports that ABB and GE Industrial have been talking about an acquisition for the past few weeks. Neither side is commenting on the record about the talks.

Spiesshofer told Reuters that ABB will be “brutally disciplined” in what it buys, and as an example pointed out that ABB walked away from buying industrial robot maker Kuka last year “because the economics did not fit what we want to do.” He added that ABB is looking for potential acquisitions in planning software, which could lead to smaller purchases.

Since Spiesshofer took over at ABB in 2013, he has worked to re-build the ABB brand. He describes 2017 as a “transitional year,” but expects the company to reach revenue goals of a 3%-6% increase. But he added, “I am confident for the full year we will be back” to a profit between 15 to 18 percent.


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