Interview with Zeno Böhm, Burkhalter Group

Interview with Zeno Böhm, CEO of the Burkhalter Group: Competent specialists and energy efficiency are the key to success

Interview
Author
IFBC Team
Date
11/5/2023

The merger of Burkhalter and Poenina created a full-service provider of cross-trade building technology with around 4,600 employees and around 80 group companies at around 150 locations in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein. The merger makes it possible to offer future-oriented building technology from a single source. The continued high level of construction activity, the existing need for renovation of buildings and an increasing demand for energy-efficient building envelopes lead to further growth potential for the merged company.

IFBC was commissioned by the boards of directors of Burkhalter and Poenina to prepare an independent report to assess the financial appropriateness of the exchange ratio (fairness opinion) as part of the planned merger between Burkhalter Holding AG and poenina holding ag in accordance with the Merger Act.

Zeno Böhm is CEO of the new building technology company Burkhalter, which was created at the end of June 2022 and is listed on SIX. In the following interview, he gives an insight into the company's ambition to improve energy efficiency in the Swiss building fleet and looks back at the merger last year.

How did the idea and motivation for this transaction come about?

According to the Federal Office of Energy, the Swiss building fleet consumes around 100 TWh, which accounts for around 45% of national energy demand and around 30% of domestic CO2 emissions. The federal government's Energy Strategy 2050 aims to reduce current energy consumption per capita by around half. The implementation of this strategy requires energy-efficient solutions and the merger with Poenina now offers the opportunity to make a comprehensive contribution to this. This is because through cross-trade cooperation, the Burkhalter Group is able to offer services that reduce energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions in the Swiss building park.

What are your priorities for the newly formed Burkhalter Group?

With services such as the renovation of fossil heating systems with heat pumps or the installation of photovoltaic systems, we can already offer good solutions today. In the medium term, we want to expand our services in the areas of energy consulting, energy efficiency and renewable energy. And we want to use the coming years to position ourselves as a provider of cross-trade building technology in the area of renovation/renovation with a focus on energy-efficient solutions.

What were the biggest challenges for you in realizing the merger?

Both companies have been consistently focused on their core competencies for many years and have recognized, very broad know-how in this area. The knowledge from electrical engineering was supplemented by that from heating and refrigeration, ventilation, air conditioning and sanitation technology. Since the individual sites of the Burkhalter Group are managed under strong corporate responsibility due to the severe fragmentation of the industry, organizational changes were feared. It was a very important task to convince those responsible on the ground that the basic organizational orientation would not change even after the merger.

How do you successfully manage day-to-day business with supply bottlenecks, price increases and a shortage of skilled workers?

In the event of supply bottlenecks, we strive to create alternative options for each product to another provider. It is important to ensure that a change of supplier does not result in poorer purchasing conditions. Our most important operating costs are personnel and material costs. Since they are increasing as a result of inflationary pressure, cost increases must be effectively controlled and passed on in full to customers.

The success of the Burkhalter Group depends on qualified employees in the individual group companies. Unfortunately, a lack of skilled workers is still a major issue; due to heavy construction activity, they are more in demand than ever. We are trying to address the shortage by further expanding our already attractive working conditions and by training the next generation, around 900 learners, ourselves.

What are your leadership principles to promote decentralized entrepreneurship and local customer proximity?

The managing directors and managers of the individual group companies and their managers enjoy the greatest possible operational freedom of action. The focus is on people, because the optimal use of their skills and their targeted development promises the greatest possible success.

How are you advancing the topic of “sustainability” at Burkhalter?
Our sustainability ambitions have been strategically enshrined since 2019 and have also been enshrined in statutes since 2022. We are therefore required not only to live up to our role model in the implementation of energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental protection, but also to promote sustainable development within our own company and within the value chain.

It is important to us to keep the negative environmental impact of our business activities as low as possible. Our related goals and measures can be found in the latest sustainability report.

What are the biggest drivers for increasing energy efficiency in private households?

Energy-efficient renovations make a significant contribution to increasing the energy efficiency of buildings. To do this, the scope of renovation (installation of multi-glazed windows, roof and exterior insulation) and the renovation depth (level to which heating and hot water requirements can be reduced through a complete renovation) must be addressed in advance. This is the only way buildings can meet the necessary requirements for the efficient operation of heat pumps.

What trends do you see in building technology for the next five years?

Digitalization in the construction industry and building technology has really picked up steam for around two years thanks to Building Information Modeling (BIM) and new technological advances. This will have a significant impact on productivity and efficiency when carrying out new construction projects. As a supporting method, BIM will revolutionize collaboration and data exchange between all actors and over the entire life cycle of buildings and structures.

What added value did the fairness opinion and dialogue with IFBC have for you?

It was important for the two boards of directors of Burkhalter and Poenina to have a professional partner at their side who would take into account the circumstances of two publicly traded small & mid-caps (SMIs). The collaboration was perceived as very professional and speedy. The exchange with each other was uncomplicated and goal-oriented.

Zeno Böhm studied Business Administration (FH), specializing in Finance & Banking, at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts from 2002 to 2003. From 2010 to 2012, he completed the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Corporate Finance (CF) at the Institute for Financial Services (IFZ) in Zug. Zeno Böhm was CFO from 2010 to 2021 and has been CEO of Burkhalter Holding AG since 2022. He is a member of the Commission for Social Partnership (KSP) of eit.swiss and therefore part of the general meeting of the Joint State Commission (PLK Elektro). He also represents Burkhalter's interests in the Swiss Building Technology Industry Group GSGI.

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