The proposed change in strategy was implemented in 1999, resulting in a divestment of the stock portfolio and a switch to purely investing in and developing unlisted companies.
Since 1999, Ratos has invested in many Nordic companies, some of which have had multiple subsidiaries. There has been a broad selection of industries. Among the acquired companies have included Alimak Hek (rack and pinion), Anticimex (pest control), Camfil (air filter technology), Dynal Biotech (biotech), Finnkino (cinema operator), Gadelius (Japanese technology-oriented business concern), Jøtul (fireplace heating stoves) and Q-Labs (IT). The acquisition of Atle in 2001 was the largest in Ratos’s history, and all at once Ratos became the company that the new strategy was aiming for.
Arne Karlsson has pointed out that even if the new strategy involved a significant break with how things had been done, both for Ratos and for other investment companies since the 1950s, there was also a clear connection to Ratos’s history. Long-term ownership has been a signature feature throughout most of the company’s history.
During 2011, Olof Stenhammar announced that he wanted to relinquish the chairmanship of Ratos. In a discussion with Arne Karlsson, Olof said that he really wanted to see Arne succeed him as chairman. That was supposedly the only time throughout their multi-year collaboration that Olof saw Arne sit there entirely speechless. Arne’s immediate reaction was to not make himself available as chairman. But after continued discussions, he and Olof came to the conclusion that Arne could accept if the new CEO was recruited internally and that he or she felt that they could work with Arne. Following a careful recruitment process, the board decided that the most suitable candidate was a Ratos employee, namely Susanna Campbell.
Since Susanna Campbell became CEO, Ratos has made eight larger acquisitions, including HENT, Nebula, Ledil, Speed Group and Trial Form Support (TFS). A majority of these are joint investment situations in growing companies with significant development potential, where Ratos is working in partnership with founders, entrepreneurs and management. Another large acquisition that Ratos implemented was the Norwegian company Aibel, at the beginning of 2013. Aibel provides maintenance and modification services to companies in the oil, gas and renewable energy fields. The company has been affected by the downturn in the oil sector, which has forced difficult cutbacks. Aibel has, however, landed several important orders recently, including an SEK 8 billion contract for the Johan Sverdrup field in the North Sea, in February 2015, which has improved the company’s future outlook. The most recent acquisitions are Speed Group, a rapidly expanding logistics and services company established in south-western Sweden, with headquarters in Borås, and TFS, which is an international service provider of clinical trials, a so-called Contract Research Organisation (CRO).
Since 1999, Ratos has had a IRR target of 20%. In 2015, the board decided to adjust the target to be company-specific and be at least 15-20%.
Ratos conducted 12 exits during 2012-15. Examples include the Danish triple-play operator Stofa, which had been acquired from TeliaSonera in 2010, and which was sold in February 2013 to the Danish firm Syd Energi for the equivalent of SEK 2.2 billion. The sale resulted in an exit gain for Ratos of approximately SEK 850 million (IRR 54%), the third highest IRR for a company acquired since 1999.
With Susanna in management, the Ratos spirit has been further strengthened through internal organisational development and increased investment in support for talent and entrepreneurs.
During autumn 2015, the nominating committee at Ratos proposed that Jonas Wiström be chosen as the new chairman at the annual general meeting in 2016, since Arne Karlsson has announced he will not seek re-election.
Over the years, Ratos has succeeded in challenging strategies and making continuous changes and improvements of its business model, in order to always stay current with the times. There is a history and a long tradition of capacity, desire and courage to change, to develop and to dare to think in new ways.
Ratos has the vision of being the best in the Nordic region at developing companies.