Just a few days before Intersolar Europe 2014 opened its doors in Munich, Germany, news broke of the merger between the two largest solar coating manufacturers in Europe, the Alanod Group, headquartered in Ennepetal, northern Germany, and the Almeco Group whose headquarters are located in Milano, Italy. The company will be called Alanod-Almeco, with headquarters in Ennepetal. Both partners have confirmed the plans to retain both the sales teams and the entire product offering. However, the facts contradict a merger between equals: Alanod is definitely the larger partner. The company with 460 staff had a turnover of EUR 160 million in 2013, whereas the Almeco Group with its 250 staff achieved a turnover of EUR 75 million last year. The new company will be headed by only one person, Ingo Beyer, CEO of the Alanod Group, and the new logo for Alanod-Almeco only includes the Italian partner’s blue triangle.
Both groups offer three identical product ranges: selective coatings for solar absorbers made of copper and aluminium, reflectors for the lighting industry and colour-coated aluminium for décor applications. “One larger player has a better standing on the world market than two smaller players,” Gianpaolo Visigalli, Managing Director and 50 % owner of the Almeco Group, explains the need to form a bigger company. “This merger is the only answer to the challenges of the global market in the next 10 years, and it is the right one,” Ingo Beyer, CEO of the Alanod Group and new CEO of the Alanod-Almeco GmbH & Co. KG is quoted in the press release from Monday, 2 June 2014.
The press release confirms that today’s owners of Almeco, as well as those of Alanod will become joint shareholders of Alanod-Almeco to continue the company’s tradition as a family‐owned business. “We want to challenge the emerging PVD coating industry in China, which is ready to enter the European market, and profit from a stronger purchasing power on the raw material market,” Frank Schoonen, Alanod’s Sales Director, says about the merger.
Dominating position in the European coating market
According to Schoonen, another objective of the merger is “to stabalise the market prices on the selective coating market". This is certainly not good news for the collector industry, because the merged company has a dominating position in the European solar thermal coating market with more than 70 %. Just a few weeks ago, Alanod purchased competitor Bluetec
and shut down its factory. Back in 2012, the Almeco group took over all of Almeco Tinox, a pioneer in selective coating, which was founded by German scientists in the 1990s. The merger has left the market with only two other solar selective coating manufacturers producing and supplying in Europe: Savo-Solar in Finland and ArcelorMittal in Belgium. The new Austrian supplier Calus claims to be ready to mass-produce coatings next year.
Like the purchase of Bluetec, the new merger is again below the radar of the German competition authority, the Bundeskartellamt, since the turnover of both partners has been below EUR 500 million globally. In case Alanod-Almeco capitalises on its market-dominating position by increasing prices in one market or the other, the industry has only one way to defend its interests: making a complaint against the new company to the national competition authority. The website of the German competition authority explains the two options that the authority has when dealing with market abuse cases: First, it can issue an administrative act ordering the company to reimburse its customers. Or, it can impose fines for regulatory offences. However, the press department of the German competition authority is quick to point out that price-fixing is very difficult to prove and has rarely resulted in penalties in the past.