More service, fewer trucks
The Hungarian road haulier Waberer’s, which wants to put all of Europe in its pocket, seems to have been caught in a spin since its IPO two years ago. In February it brought Robert Ziegler on board as its new CEO to shake the group up and restructure operations.
First a new CEO was named; a change of course is next in the pipeline. Waberer’s appointed Robert Ziegler in February and immediately mandated him with the task of polishing up the faded splendour of the Budapest-based company. Ziegler is a former A.T. Kearney management consultant who has already demonstrated his restructuring skills with DHL Freight in the Benelux countries and Great Britain, among others. Ferenc Lajkó’s successor at the head of the firm, who has now completed 100 days in office, has made the direction clear in which the “far-reaching changes” will go.
Until recently it seemed as if a phase of rapid growth would never come to an end. In 2017 the company, which has been listed on the Hungarian stock exchange since mid-2017, increased its turnover by almost 18% to more than EUR 674 million, and its net profit by almost 58% to a more modest EUR 21.4 million.
From advantage to disadvantage
In 2018, however, the utilisation rate of the carrier’s growing truck fleet could no longer be kept at satisfactory levels – the company politely called this overcapacity. The figures for 2018 show how fuel and drivers’ salaries, amongst other things, have eaten up Waberer’s slim rates of return, and resulted in a loss of EUR 6.9 million. On top of this, the company is burdened with a total debt of EUR 279 million.
Ziegler believes that Waberer’s fleet of 4,300 trucks – the firm’s pride and joy, which may be the largest in Europe – may be one of the central problems. Waberer’s vehicles covered an astounding 500 million km in 2018; but the company has failed to prove its market efficiency. The new CEO leaves no doubt that he will get to the root of the problem. “We’ve now postponed orders for more than 300 trucks. If the profitability of our lorries doesn’t improve sufficiently, then we’re prepared to reduce the fleet further.” He makes no secret of the fact that he considers the switch to more subcontractors necessary. “We need a improve the balance between our own units and contracts for more flexible capacities.”
The transformation for which Ziegler stands is expected to turn the SME that has grown very large into a veritable pan-European corporation. This means massive change. On the one hand this will affect the number of employees. Their number has grown to more than 8,000. The heavily-sought drivers will be an exception. On the other hand there is the company’s network, which still has some catching up to do in terms of customer service – despite its expansion to more than 28 countries in Europe.
Ziegler says that “Waberer’s wants to become a firm with which it should be easy to do business.” This makes it clear where the problem lies. Ziegler has underlined that “Waberer’s strategy will be updated in the se- cond half of this year.”