Enercon foundation 'secures its future'

GERMANY: Ownership of Germany's largest turbine manufacturer Enercon is to be controlled by a newly created foundation, with the aim of preventing flotation and protecting the firm against takeovers.

Company founder and owner Aloys Wobben is placing all his company shares into the Aloys Wobben Foundation "to secure the life's work of the wind energy pioneer and the independence of the turbine manufacturer into the long term", the company announced in April.

"Aloys Wobben is keen for the company to stay the course into the long term," said Enercon managing director Hans-Dieter Kettwig. "There are many eager hands to help Enercon, some not so above-board. The question was how to provide for more security for Enercon. Aloys Wobben's decision was to set up the family foundation in 2012."

"It's a good time to take such a step," commented Markus Heuel, lawyer and director at the German foundation centre, Deutsches Stiftungszentrum. Inheritance tax rules are currently favourable for handing on ownership of a company, be it to a foundation or to any other inheritor, but these rules could be altered to become less advantageous by a new government after the next federal election in autumn 2013, he pointed out. At the moment, assuming certain conditions are fulfilled, such as maintaining company revenue within a target corridor and avoiding staff lay-offs over the next five years, inheritance tax can be reduced to zero, added Heuel.

Founder control

When transferring ownership to a foundation, a company owner can set the broad rules for the firm's operation for the long term future, choose the foundation board, decide how the board should be selected in the future, and take the post of foundation board chairman. Although no longer the owner, he can still steer the company in a manner similar to the supervisory board of a stock-holding company. Heuel added that in switching the ownership to a foundation, the day to day running of the company is not altered.

Founded in 1984, Enercon is the fifth-largest turbine manufacturer in the world. It accounted for 60% of Germany's market (total installed last year was about 2GW), and around 7.9% of the world market (total installed last year was around 41GW) in 2011. The company is independent, does not intend to go public nor engage in any takeovers. Further, it is maintaining its long term policy of no involvement in the offshore wind sector, no participation in the USA or China wind markets, and is ending activities in India, said Kettwig. The company's main markets currently include Europe, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan and Japan and will take in a few more countries from 2015, he said.

After 2,864MW and 3,195MW of wind turbine installations in 2010 and 2011 respectively, the company expects to install 3,550MW this year and 3,750MW in 2013, "with room for upward expansion," according to Kettwig. Installations in Germany alone are expected to amount to 1,150-1,250MW this year after 1,194MW in 2011.

The family-owned Enercon has maintained a stable performance in recent years, with revenues forecast to reach at least EUR3.8 billion in 2012, on a par with or slightly increasing on 2011, and up from EUR3.65 billion in 2010.

In parallel, the company expects to raise its employee numbers worldwide to 5,600 in 2012, 1,000 more than the 2011 count of around 4,600 and nearly 50% more than the 3,800 in 2010. Some of the new staff will be employed in the new factories and a research centre currently being built. Turbine tower factories are also under construction in Longueil-Sainte-Marie in Picardy in France and in Zurndorf in Austria, to begin production in mid 2012 and at the end of 2012 respectively, and the research and development centre at company headquarters in Aurich is due to open its doors in mid-2013.

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