Ambition to build a leading office chair manufacturer
At the end of 2006, Ratos acquired the Swedish and Danish office chair producers RH Form and RBM. Shortly afterwards, in 2007, the Norwegian office chair producer HÅG was acquired and the group was given the name SB Seating. The HÅG, RH Form and RBM brands were retained.
Through these acquisitions and the merger of the three office chair manufacturers a leading and profitable Nordic company was to be created, with the potential to also grow within Europe. The shared focus was on ergonomics, functional design and environment. Synergy opportunities were available by improving the efficiency of purchasing, production and sales and thus strengthening profitability. There was also potential to strengthen market presence, accelerate product development and increase geographic expansion.
Active ownership, skilled management and extensive measures
Ratos, together with management, set a clear and ambitious development plan for the company. The first step after the acquisitions was to integrate the operations of the three companies, work that was led by CEO Lars I Røiri.
Throughout the entire holding period, initiatives were taken designed to better adjust the product portfolio and improve production efficiency in order to strengthen profitability. On the purchasing side, purchases of material were coordinated and outsourcing of components to low-cost countries increased. The focus on a higher proportion of bought-in components enabled flexibility in production. Product development and investment programmes were also coordinated between the companies.
Aggressive efforts were made both geographically and within the product offering which strengthened the market position within differentiated ergonomic and environmentally friendly office chairs with a functional design. Investments in product development were also a major reason for the improvement in profitability.
At the end of 2008, the macroeconomic climate quickly deteriorated and in 2009 the company’s sales fell sharply. Ongoing synergy and efficiency improvement initiatives were accelerated and the number of factories was reduced from three to two.
As a complement to retailer-driven sales, Key Account Management was strengthened. In addition to activities in Europe, new markets were in focus which resulted in establishment in Singapore in 2012, the company’s first Asian presence under its own management.
SB Seating has developed into Scandinavia’s leading and most profitable office chair manufacturer. Profitability and market position have been strengthened through measures that improved productivity and efficiency, as well as through major investment in product development. Since 2007, sales have fallen by over 20% due to the less favourable economic climate but the company still strengthened its market position. At the same time, the operating margin rose from 13% to 21%. The substantial improvement in profitability and strong cash flows allowed two refinancings to be carried out. In total, SB Seating has generated a value of SEK 1 billion and an average annual return of 14%.
Ratos achieved the strategic goals defined at acquisition and the SB Seating is now well positioned for its next journey.
Facts of the investment
Investment year: 2006/2007
Sales (NOKm): 1 160
Adjusted EBITA (NOKm): 148
Exit year: 2014
Sales (NOKm): 1 03
Adjusted EBITA (NOKm): 207