Interview with Mr. Christian Irrschik, Managing Director for Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia and Mr. Jurgen Schaefer, Prokurist, WAGO Kontakttechnik

Electronics InterviewSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 1/2011

We see a potential for developing our business here inSouth-Eastern Europe

How long does WAGO Kontakttechnik operate on the local market and how is the business organized here?
Jurgen Schaefer: We started here in our own office in 2006 and we have developed our organization in the region through Christian Irrschik who is managing our office here in Bulgaria and is also responsible for Serbia and Romania, as well as for the other countries in the region. Now we have increased our network here in SE Europe – we have good partners in most of the countries.

How important is the SEE market for the company?
J. Sch.: We have a quite good market share in the Western part of Europe and we think that in South-East Europe we still have potential to develop our business. This is because we can see here that more buildings are created, there is more money involved, people are driving larger cars, and they are also expecting that the hotels and other buildings they use will become better. There are also lots of investments regarding the fact that Bulgaria is part of the European Union, we have recently seen announcements about projects in water and wastewater treatment, and this is part of what we are planning – investing in water and wastewater activities – as well as in general in projects where renewable energy sources are involved. Our expectations are that the market potential is growing and that’s why we are investing at this market.

Could you explain more about your products for water and wastewater treatment?
J. Sch.: If you look inside – terminals are everywhere you have two wires to connect - we also have an important range of relays, conditioners, transducers and modules. If you have input signals and you want them to turn into electrical signals, and those signal conditionings are quite often in water treatment areas – we have a good range here as well - it’s called WAGO JUMPFLEX range and it’s rather new, it’s rather slim, so it’s space saving and has a high degree of technical features. We also have control systems which could be used in water treatment are-as as well. That’s why we think we can make more business here.

Which are the most specific features of the Bulgarian market compared to the others in the region or to the Western markets?
J. Sch.: I think that in the Western market the volume of the business in general is bigger - there are more buildings, industrial and machine production – I think this is one of the main differences. What we see here is a large number of end users which is important to us. What is important to our business here is that we see potential partners – in the mining industry for example, food processing, that’s an area we think you also need connection and automation. If we also look at the particular areas as infrastructure, airport extensions, and railway extensions – they are also important for our business.

Which are the latest technologies in your portfolio?
J. Sch.: I think that it’s really important that you have the opportunity to push the wire directly operating the terminal, so I think it’s time saving, easy to be handed. One of our new ranges for Bulgaria is the latest series JUMPFLEX Transducers which include both universal frequency and current transducers. The 857-500 Frequency Transducer converts signals from, e.g., NAMUR, NPN or PNP sensors into analog standard signals. The 857-550 Current Transducer measures DC and AC currents ranging from 0 to 1A (AC/DC) and from 0 to 5A (AC/DC). We are training out new products all the time, so our range is growing, and I think this is also important – to make new business with new products.

Are you planning any important events for 2011?
Christian Irrschik:
For this year we are planning to take part of some fairs and exhibitions here in SE Europe. Such as – International Fair of Technique and Technical Achievements, Belgrade in May, AAIR 2011 – Exhibition and Symposium in Bucharest, 10th International Fair Expokos, Pristine. We are planning one more participation at IEAS, Bucharest in September and, of course, the International Plovdiv Fair here in Bulgaria. The Road Show Infoliner would be seen both in Romania and Bulgaria this year. We are also planning a special announcement in the autumn about a new product which is, I may say, revolutionary for the specialists in the electric companies.

What are your business plans for the current 2011 for the SEE region?
J. Sch.: In 2011 we have just finished our best year ever. We were expecting to exceed our 2008 results. Like many other companies we forget 2009 and we try to exceed our 2008 results. In year 2008 we achieved 450 million Euro, and in 2010 - 500 million Euro. We saw that during 2010 many companies managed to get out of the crisis quite fast but in different stages. And we see that, for instance, in SEE Europe it has taken longer to get out of the crisis. So that’s why we can see a delay of crisis development. I can say that in Germany our business is out of the crisis, it’s quite more difficult in Italy. I can say that in Japan business started up again, the whole Asian region did it. So as general, we have seen an excellent 2010 that’s why we see good perspectives for 2011 and I can say that we are expecting better results here in that area because the conditions are getting better and the market is getting stable again. Maybe it’s important to say that even 2009 we had a growth here in SEE market.

In which business sectors you see a potential here in Bulgaria and Romania?
J. Sch.: It’s a complicated question because we have a very wide range of products which is also our challenge which can be used at first place everywhere you have to connect wires – and that works as well in buildings or industry. That’s why we try to understand the local requirements to concentrate our sales into that right direction, and here we can see for example the building sector, and the fact that we need a good distribution network to reach the local installer and that’s a direction we see a future for our company. This particular sector needs energy saving and automation the installers need to know our products. Building automation and system integration is a direction, and we are also in the industry – our panels are used everywhere – traffic control, machines. And then the infrastructure projects, as I already said, this area is important as well as transportation. These are the segments we try to understand and develop.
Ch. I.: I’d like to add that since 2006 when we first came here we developed good relationships, we think that the business climate here is very good and open-minded.