Management Holding with Long-Term Objectives

Stability and long-term corporate development are the key words that characterise Possehl Group’s business strategy. In line with this strategic course, we preferentially acquire equity holdings in companies operating in mature industries or niche markets. We manage our Group in a decentralised manner. Our lead companies are independently operating enterprises, which ensures that relevant decisions can be made directly and without delay in their respective markets.

Sales development in € million

2020 | 4,430
2019 | 4,140
2018 | 3,764
2017 | 3,809
2016 | 3,877

EBIT before special effects in € million

2020 | 140
2019 | 173
2018 | 181
2017 | 176
2016 | 175

Executive Board

Joachim Brenk (CEO)

Chairman of the Board of Management
Dr-Ing.

Member of the Executive Board since 2009. Chairman of the Board since 1 August 2017 and responsible for the divisions Intralogistics, Printing Machines and Precious Metals Processing.

Mario Schreiber

Vice Chairman of the Board of Management
Diplom-Betriebswirt (MBA)

Has been working for the Possehl Group since 2004. Member of the Executive Board since 2013 and responsible for the divisions Special Purpose Construction, Electronics, SME Investments and Cleaning Technology.

Henning von Klitzing

Member of the Board of Management
Dr rer.-pol., Lawyer

Has been working for the Possehl Group since 2006. Member of the Executive Board since 2013 and responsible for M&A.

Mark Meulbroek

Member of the Board of Management
Dipl.-Ing./MBA

Has been working for the Possehl Group since 2010. Member of the Executive Board since 2021 and responsible for the devision Tyre Technology and Identification Solutions.

Supervisory Board

Uwe Lüders

Chairman
Master of Economics (Dipl.-Volkswirt)

Claus Bunk

Vice Chairman
Sales Project Management of BÖWE SYSTEC GmbH
Chairman of the Works Council of BÖWE SYSTEC GmbH
Chairman of the Group Works Council of L. Possehl & Co. mbH

Marcus Both

Insurance broker

Hanno Brüggen

Personally liable shareholder of H. & J. Brüggen KG

Thomas Fischer

Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Mann + Hummel GmbH

Henning Großkreutz

Chief Authorised Representative of IG Metall Lübeck

Astrid Hamker

Shareholder and member of the Advisory Board of Piepenbrock Group

Michael Hinrichsen

Insurance broker

Liane Papaioannou

Chief Authorised Representative of IG Metall Pforzheim

Max Schön

Entepreneur
Chairman of the Possehl Foundation’s Board of Directors

Angelika Strait-Binder

Personally liable shareholder of J.G. Niederegger GmbH & Co. KG

Anton Zehentner

Chairman of the Works Council of Heimerle + Meule GmbH
Fleet Mananger + Team Leader Logistics/Shipping at Heimerle + Meule GmbH
Member of the Group Works Council of L. Possehl & Co. mbH

Targets and Strategy

GROWTH AND VALUE ENHANCEMENT

It is our aim to constantly increase our Group’s earnings and enhance our corporate value sustainably.
To achieve this, we need suitable entrepreneurs, who enjoy a high level of entrepreneurial freedom within the framework of our corporate values, to manage each of our many companies. In addition, it is our objective to offer owner- and family-run businesses attractive succession solutions in order to win new companies for our Group.

ABILITY TO PAY DIVIDENDS

It is our aim to pay our proprietor, the Possehl Foundation, an attractive regular dividend, also in economically difficult times.
We achieve this through long-term income and investment planning and a conservative interpretation of accounting flexibility. When taking major decisions, we always include our capability of fulfilling our dividend promises on a sustained basis into our considerations. We rely on our companies’ sustainable profitability without pursuing any exit strategy.

STABILITY

It is our aim to secure the entrepreneurial activities of our individual companies by ensuring the strength of the Group as a whole.
We achieve this by maintaining a diversified and broadly-based portfolio stretching across various business sectors and industries with companies subjected to different economic cycles. We will continue to broaden our base in the coming years. Despite pursuing a strategy of diversification, we aim at understanding each and any of our business models since we can only develop products and services we fully understand.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

In our aim of achieving our targets, we are always fully aware of our social responsibilities.
We feel obliged to fulfil our shareholder’s high standards in this respect. This is why people in their individuality always play a key role in all our decisions. Within our business environment of medium-sized companies, we communicate at eye-level, openly and honestly. Both employee representatives and works councils as well as union representatives are regularly welcome to discuss business matters with our managements.

Leadership philosophy

LEAN STRUCTURES AND FAST DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES

A good opportunity waits for no man, and matters of great urgency do not allow any delay. And why should they? Today, modern lines of communication enable fast and efficient information exchange processes within organisations. The same goes for us: At the Holding Company, we are always available and approachable for our companies, directly and without much ado, to help solving problems in a fast and straightforward manner. All of our companies adhere to this principle.

VENTURING INTO NEW TERRITORY

Given the highly dynamic development in the markets, our companies, in return, need to become even more agile and, in particular, rise to the challenge of digitisation in the years to come. We encourage our companies to seize opportunities, once identified, with a “controlled approach to risk”. In doing so, we also accept the fact that, with hindsight, certain decisions may prove to have been wrong. However, at the end of the day, this is what entrepreneurship is all about. The most important thing is that the overall performance is right.

CLEAR TARGETS AND HONEST FEEDBACK

As is to be expected, our companies’ freedom of action is linked to certain conditions. We attach great importance to transparency, clear agreements and exact feedback received from our managing directors in the course of informal dialogues as well as at our annual meetings. In general, we give preference to personal discussions rather than exchanging emails or receiving excessive key data “monstrosities” or stylish presentations.

COOPERTIVE LEADERSHIP

Nobody knows his own waters better than the captain himself, who negotiates them on a daily basis. We know this because in our current positions as sparring partners and advisors in the Holding company, we ourselves have gained many years of experience in different managerial positions in operative units in the past. For this reason we place great trust in our companies’ managements. We strive to make them as strong as possible while giving them as much leeway as possible in their day-to-day operative development. Instead of relying on setting targets, we give preference to exchange and inspiring new momentum to encourage mutual trust, which is particularly helpful during difficult phases.

REGULAR COMMUNICATION

Information provides security. This is why our managers closely communicate with each other on a regular basis. Our division managers are in constant contact with our operative managements to discuss short-term developments. In addition, regular meetings take place between the managing directors and our Executive Board on a quarterly basis, followed by annual planning meetings in autumn. Parallel to this, the management of the Holding Company maintains regular on-site contact with the managing directors to exchange information.

BOTTOM-LINE ACCOUNTABILITY

It is part of our leadership philosophy that our companies develop independently, which includes operating under their own profit responsibility. Each company must be economically viable. Cross-subsidisation is not intended. As a general rule, cross-corporate actions, such as measures regarding cyber security, digitisation clusters, benchmarks, joint purchasing of licences or innovation competition, are optional in character and mostly based on the initiative of individual group companies.

Company History

Continuity and Change since 1847

The Possehl Group can look back on a long and successful history.
More than 17 decades in business have refined a company profile that is characterised by experience and reliability.

1847

Establishment and Development

On 1 May 1847, Ludwig Possehl founds his company L. Possehl & Co. in Lübeck and starts trading with iron and coal.

His first customers are from the local region: citizens from all levels of society in the Hanseatic City and its surrounding areas need coal. Iron goods are sold to various nearby industries such as tradesmen and handicraft businesses. Within a short time, Possehl is supplying its first industrial bulk purchasers with sheet iron, black coal and general hardware such as nails and wires. To give his business the broadest possible foundation is already an important business principle.

Improvements in infrastructure lead to an economic upswing. The developing steam shipping industry on the river Trave, the modernisation of the port and the linking of Lübeck to the railway network causes a boom in business. In addition, customs regulations für Lübeck’s merchants are eased to facilitate trading.

Possehl’s stable equity position enables his Company to survive economic crises such as that of 1857, when economic life in the German Empire nearly entirely collapsed. Conservative capital withdrawal policies result in the Company’s equity growing to seven-and-a-half times the original starting capital, despite the difficult first 15 years of the Company’s history.

1873

Growth in Europe

In 1873, Ludwig’s eldest son Emil Possehl takes over the management of the Company. This is the start of the heavy industrial period. Emil Possehl is one of the first to recognise the trend towards industrial development and aligns his business accordingly.

In the 1890s, the industrial revolution is in full swing: the German steel industry offers Possehl a market that permits business activities across Europe. Emil Possehl particularly focusses on organising the sale of Swedish ore in Germany, which soon makes him the largest importer of iron ore from Sweden.

Until the beginning of the First Word War, Emil Possehl, now Senator of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck, is able to expand his Company considerably, as he holds interests in iron works, steel works, limestone quarries and iron pyrite mines, which are mostly based abroad. The company’s own shipping company handles the pan-European distribution from the far north to as far south as Lisbon and Africa.

In 1915, Emil Possehl streamlines the company structures by transforming the existing departments of the Company into autonomous trading companies. L. Possehl & Co. becomes the parent company. This provides the basis for an organisational style that still characterises the Company in the 21st century: the division into one overarching holding company and its subsidiary individual companies.

1918

The Crucible Years

The First World War leads to a dramatic setback: war bonds fail and the losses have to be financed through the sale of rights to Swedish ore mines. The Company is able to survive thanks to the coal and domestic fuel business in Germany.

Emil Possehl dies on 4 February 1919. The sole heir to Company assets is the Possehl Foundation. Since that time – as was intended by its founder – the foundation has promoted cultural, social and charitable activities in his hometown of Lübeck.

After the financial turbulence of the 1920s, the 1930s find the Company on the rise again.  New branches of industry, i.e. production companies, freight and insurance agencies, join the Possehl Group. The core business with steel, coal and other fuels develops and flourishes once again.

This period also witnesses the development of the Possehl Group into its present structure. The Possehl Foundation transfers its then directly held companies to L. Possehl & Co. and has only held shares in the parent company since.

The Second World War leaves deep scars: the Company loses all of its foreign holdings and a large part of its markets. The branches located in the eastern part of Germany are lost, as are assets in foreign countries. The head offices in Beckergrube, along with all records, are also reduced to rubble and ashes in the midst of the war.

1948

Rebirth and International Growth

The Possehl Group was hit hard by the collapse of Germany and the ensuing political changes at the end of the war. All companies headquartered in areas now under the Soviet sphere of influence are lost.  Not until the currency reform of 1948 are the conditions in place for the Company to be rebuilt.

The Company management takes small steps towards rebuilding what remains of old business relationships. In their effort to establish new contacts, the Company management particularly benefits from the diversity of the existing production-, trading- and service companies incorporated within the Group. Central leadership of the Group by the parent company also proves effective. Investment decisions are made systematically and companies that are not profitable are supported and realigned, or, if restructuring efforts fail to be successful, divested and sold.

At the beginning of the 1950s, business activities pick up sharply. A highly successful decade for the business follows. In 1965, Possehl records consolidated Group net sales of DM 831 million. At this time, the Possehl Group implements its first structural change: the acquisition of production companies results in a decreasing percentage of trading activities. In particular the acquisition of Heimerle + Meule GmbH, which today still acts as the lead company of Possehl’s precious metals business, plays a key role in this structural change.

1997

Possehl Celebrates its 150th Anniversary

In particular the 1980s and 90s see a strong growth in business. Possehl acquires various, mainly mid-sized, domestic companies and, associated therewith, the Group of companies develops into a diversified Group equally divided between trading and production activities.

By this time, achieving annual sales of more than DM 3 billion and employing some 5,000 people, Possehl is one of the 100 largest companies in Germany.

Possehl Today

Diversified Group of Companies Operating Across the Globe

Today, Possehl is a globally operating and deliberately broadly based Group of companies recording annual sales of almost 4 billion euros. More than 180 successfully operating Group companies employ some 12,500 people worldwide.

Our business activities focus on the capital goods industry, in particular machinery and plant engineering. With its currently nine independent divisions and largely decentralised management structure, Possehl is a classic conglomerate. In addition to being targeted towards both profitability and continuity in dividend distributions, the Company portfolio, which includes a vast number of so-called Hidden Champions, has its emphasis on long-term business activities, stability and the balanced distribution of risks. In pursuing these strategic company objectives, we take adequate account of the long-term orientation of our shareholder, the Possehl Foundation. Financial independence is extremely important for Possehl and plays a key role in all our decisions.

Possehl Foundation

Sole Shareholder for over 100 Years

For over 100 years now, the Possehl Foundation has been based in “Beckergrube” located in Lübeck’s Old Town, just like L. Possehl & Co. mbH, which was founded in 1847. Promoting “everything good and beautiful” in Lübeck, the Foundation’s work is committed to maintaining the beautiful cityscape, supporting young people, fostering arts and sciences, and relieving the hardship of those in need.

“It is my greatest wish that my beloved hometown, the Free and Hanseatic City of Lübeck, may benefit from the fruits of my life’s work.”

Emil Possehl

The Possehl Foundation is a company trust and a charitable organisation at the same time. Operating profits are solely used to serve the common good. The City of Lübeck and its citizens in particular benefit from the commercial success of the Possehl Group, in accordance with the wishes and testament of Emil Possehl.

It provides support and financial assistance to:
◦ Maintaining the beautiful cityscape
◦ Charitable organisations
◦ Fostering the arts and sciences
◦ Supporting young people
◦ Relieving the hardship of those in need

The founder Emil Possehl

Emil Possehl, the first-born son of Lübeck-based merchant Ludwig Possehl, was born in 1850 in Lübeck’s “Beckergrube”. It is in his childhood home where the businesses of his father’s company L. Possehl & Co., who traded with iron, coal and sheet metal, were conducted. In 1873, Emil Possehl joins his father’s business and, a few years later, following the acquisition of companies in Russia, Sweden and Norway, finds himself a globally active industrial magnate. The turnover of goods increases 50-fold. In 1901 he is elected to the Lübeck Senate. Emil Possehl’s donations during his lifetime are expressions of his creative drive: He financially supports the project of building a new theatre in “Beckergrube” and funds the construction of a zeppelin. When he draws up his will in 1925, his fortune amounts to 100 million Deutsch Marks. As his marriage remains childless, he bequeaths his company assets to the Possehl Foundation.

The Foundation and the Company are closely associated

On 17 May 1919, the Possehl Foundation was legally approved by a decree of the Senate and has promoted “everything good and beautiful” in Lübeck ever since. At the same time, the legal structure chosen by Emil Possehl of making the Possehl Foundation the sole shareholder of the Company has created the prerequisite for a sustainable corporate management. The Company and the Foundation have now been closely associated for over 100 years, which is also helped by their spatial proximity: Right from the beginning, both the Company and the Foundation have been headquartered in Lübeck’s “Beckergrube”. The most important factor, however, is their joint commitment to continue Emil Possehl’s entrepreneurial thinking and acting in the founder’s spirit. He always preferred to invest his money in entrepreneurial activities. Hence, the Group of companies constitutes the basic assets of the Possehl Foundation. In order to enable the Possehl Foundation to reliably and sustainably promote charitable projects, its is inevitable for the Company to generate a constant dividend also in times of economic downturn. Both the Company’s and the Foundation’s actions are guided by long-term objectives.

Today, the Foundation’s Management Board has 19 members. Founder Emil Possehl had stipulated that the Board shall be composed of “members of the Senate, the authorities and the clergy as well as merchants, teachers, lawyers and other liberal professions”. Representatives of the professions named by Emil Possehl are still working as members of the Foundation’s Management Board in an honorary capacity today. The members are involved in several working groups and juries, and regularly visit the organisations and facilities funded by the Foundation.

Relieving hardship in times of crisis

Due to the pandemic, applications for individual support skyrocketed in spring 2020. It soon became obvious that artists and creatives are completely sidelined when it comes to state subsidies. Many of them have no financial reserves whatsoever and would not receive immediate support by the government either. The Possehl Foundation engaged in a close cooperation with the inner-city church “St Petri zu Lübeck” in order to provide active support to artists in need. St Petri is not a parish in the classic sense but acts as a “culture church”. An aid fund for freelance artists, which was established quickly and unbureaucratically, made it possible to alleviate the greatest need during the first lockdown. Moreover, the Foundation directly supported a soup kitchen for homeless people at St Petri.

Possehl Foundation contributions in €

1950-2019408,786,362.57
202026,228,803.30
Total435,015,165.87

Click here to visit the Possehl Foundation website:

www.possehl-stiftung.de