Market presence, not size
Gebrüder Weiss’ new CEO since 1 January, Wolfram Senger-Weiss, has also been a member of the company’s board since 2005. Christian Doepgen waited for his first 100 days in office to pass before asking him about his plans, GW’s international realignment in the air and sea freight segments, expansion in the Caucasus and in Asia, and its business in those markets where it already has a strong presence.
You took charge of the firm in a rather successful phase for Gebrüder Weiss (GW), didn’t you, Mr Senger-Weiss? In 2004 you turned over around EUR 700 million, today this figure stands at EUR 1.68 billion; you have 7,100 employees working in 150 offices. What targets have you set yourself for 2020 – or even for 2030?
First of all, Gebrüder Weiss’ achievement of performing better than the market average is based on a strong team. We want to continue on our course, consolidate our overall geographical orientation and exploit the opportunities offered by digitisation to improve processes for our customers.
As a member of GW’s executive management team since 2005 you’ve also been in charge, amongst other things, of mergers and acquisitions. Is expanding through acquisitions an option for you?
Focusing on organic growth is our approach for now. Any acquisition always has to fit strategically too, including geographical and cultural aspects of a new company. We want to continue to grow strategically in southern Germany.
The unbundling in 2017 of your air and sea freight joint venture with Weiss-Röhlig has given you a strong position in China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Canada and the UAE, amongst others. Has independence given GW any new impetus in these markets?
The single brand definitely created greater dynamism worldwide. The decision was well received both by our employees as well as our customers. With our own organisation in the key markets in the USA and Germany we’ve been able to establish a global network on the basis of our existing offices and partners worldwide.
Establishing our own national organisation in the United States, with headquarters in Chicago IL and another six offices nationwide, represents a milestone for us.
As the biggest economy worldwide the USA continues to offer us a great potential. Although 2018 was marked by a high degree of volatility, we’ve gained a strong foothold in the meantime. We’re worried by trade barriers though – we prefer free markets.
The same question applies to China, where your company has been present for more than 25 years and the number of your offices is rising – how have additional looming trade barriers as well as China’s own economic downturn affected your activities there?
We added four new offices in southern China since 2017, bringing their number to 18 nationwide now. The Chinese market has lost some of its dynamism, it’s true, but thanks to our good organisation there we consider developments there positive.
GW has a traditionally strong position in Central as well as Eastern Europe. Development in the Caucasus has also been prioritised of late. How did business go there in 2018?
I’ve just returned from Georgia, where we’ve established a strong presence as one of the market leaders. We use Tbilisi as a hub for the entire region – not only for services to and from Armenia and Azerbaijan, for example, but also for Central Asia and parts of Eastern Europe. Volumes are growing at a stable double-digit rate.
How are your business activities progressing in Romania and Turkey?
In Romania – which is quite a big coun-try, actually, we exploit the positive dyna- mic of rather high domestic consumption, amongst other things. We operate in the growing B2C logistics segment with our home-delivery services.
2018 was a difficult year for Turkey, also on account of the collapse of the currency. We developed positively there, however, as the country is still an extended workbench for Europe, and remains ideal for near-shoring.
What role does rail transport play for GW? What do you think of the new broad-gauge line from Košice (Slovakia) to Vienna?
We always analyse all modes of transport. We already operate a blocktrain from Vienna to Voralberg five days a week; our ‘Orange Combi Cargo’. Actually, the new broad-gauge line represents a really great opportunity for Austria as a whole. The greater Vienna area is an ideal platform between Central Europe and the Eurasia region. It’s a very complex project, but at least it’s technically feasible.
How did your six-year stint as president of the Austrian forwarding and logistics association go?
Much has been done of late to improve the logistics industry’s image. As a small market, Austria can establish itself as an innovation pioneer in this sector.