The trading partnership Söderberg & Haak, Sweden’s first wholesale company for iron and iron products, was formed by the former master smith at Garpenberg ironworks, Per Olof Söderberg, and by Leonard Haak. When the company’s main supplier went bankrupt, Söderberg became sole owner, but the Haak name remained in the company.
Förvaltningsaktiebolaget Ratos (named after the brothers Ragnar and Torsten Söderberg, grandsons of Per Olof Söderberg) was registered in 1934, now as a mixed investment company with several operating companies and a portfolio of listed shares in order to create greater interest in the event of a stock exchange listing.
The property at Drottninggatan 2, Adelswärdska House, was acquired in 1938. It has been the head office of Söderberg & Haak and Ratos since 1939.
Ratos was introduced on the Stockholm Stock Exchange in 1954. One-fifth of the shares in Ratos were offered to outsiders and the issue was oversubscribed. The number of shareholders amounted to 1,000. Ratos then included three operating companies and a share portfolio acquired over a 20-year period (including Gränges, Asea, Holmen and Bulten as well as Sveriges Litografiska Tryckerier, later Esselte). The Swedish business magazine Affärsvärlden wrote: “...a well balanced portfolio of listed industrial shares. Major hidden reserves can be noted. The share issue was immediately oversubscribed.”
The Söderberg foundations were formed in 1960 when the brothers Ragnar and Torsten Söderberg, then Ratos’s principal owners, each donated 20,000 Ratos shares to their respective foundation. The purpose of the foundations is to promote scientific research and studies in economics, medicine and law. The stock exchange listing and the formation of the foundations gave Ratos shares a market value and the company acquired a stable owner situation.
In the period following the IPO in 1954, Ratos’s operations, besides a listed portfolio, were concentrated on the steel industry. This market suffered a deep recession in the mid-1970s and Ratos’s steel operations were sold. This marked the end of an over 100-year chapter in the company’s history. Ratos’s very strong financial position, combined with extensive wholesaler expertise, opened up opportunities for the development of new business activities.
Ratos had the character of a mixed investment company. As well as a listed portfolio there were also a number of subsidiaries and associated companies. The holdings include shares in Esso’s hotel and restaurant chain, from which the wholly owned subsidiary Scandic Hotels was formed. The Danish HVAC and plumbing wholesaler Brødrene Dahl became a wholly owned subsidiary, and the acquisition of Nordisk Transport & Spedition led to the formation of the subsidiary Inter Forward.
A streamlining of Ratos started. Between 1995 and 1998 Ratos was transformed into a pure-play investment company consisting of a listed portfolio of shares. In January 1999, the Board and management present a new strategy where the idea of a pure share managing investment company is abandoned. Instead, it is decided that Ratos should be a listed private equity conglomerate and invest in primarily unlisted medium sized companies in the Nordic region.
The listed portfolio was sold at the beginning of the 21st century and the acquisition of Atle in 2001, makes Ratos a pure-play private equity conglomerate.
Today we own 18 companies in the Nordic region and have so far achieved an average annual return (IRR) of 24% on the exits we have completed.