Susanne Wiegand leads Renk to the trading floor
Knowledge and skills, strategy and leadership style are much more important than whether a woman or a man is at the helm of a company. However, in the German industry in particular a male workforce continues to dominate the boards. This makes Susanne Wiegand stand out even more. As the CEO of Renk, she is an exception in the still male-dominated defense industry. Since 2021, she has been leading the company in Augsburg, which manufactures gearboxes for tanks and naval ships, among other things.
In the industry, the business graduate, who hails from Schönaich near Stuttgart, had already gained 16 years of experience in the Thyssenkrupp subsidiary Marine Systems, as managing director of the naval shipbuilder German Naval Yards, and in the divisional management of the defense division at Rheinmetall. This year, the 51-year-old manager is receiving a lot of attention: Renk is preparing for an IPO.
Originally, an Initial Public Offering (IPO) was pursued as one option among many, as it was said for several months. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Renk is aiming for the initial listing on the regulated market of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange on October 5. The financial investor Triton, who brought Wiegand to the CEO position, is cashing in and wants to give up a maximum of 27% of Renk's shares. This could bring the private equity company an emission proceeds of up to 486 million euros.
In essence, it is a return to the stock exchange for Renk. The 150-year-old company was publicly listed for nearly 100 years until February 2021 and was part of the MAN Group for 90 years, later belonging to Volkswagen. Already in the summer, Wiegand did not hide that she prefers an IPO compared to other options: a sale to a financial or strategic investor. It is attractive for Renk to remain independent to utilize its growth potential, she said in July at the Club of Economic Press in Munich.
Suddenly a better reputation
Russia's attack on Ukraine suddenly brought national defense back into the spotlight after decades. The defense industry benefits from this in terms of political importance, perception within society, and economically. Renk's order backlog reached record levels this year, growing by over a fifth to 1.7 billion euros in the first half. Revenue in these six months increased by nearly 8% to 410 million euros. The revenue margin before interest and taxes, adjusted for non-recurring effects, has been lifted by Wiegand to a level of 15 to 16%. This supports the self-confidence of the company's CEO – not only because of the defense issue: "We stand for the changing times and the energy transition."
Which tank wins a western country's tender for an order seems to be indifferent to her: "We are everywhere," she says about Renk's gearboxes. Drive and control technology for armored vehicles and naval ships account for 70% of the revenue, with the remaining 30% focusing on energy technology with solutions for a carbon-neutral economy. An example: As the second-largest provider, the company manufactures turbo gearboxes for compressors for gas distribution. This market is growing faster than the defense business, Wiegand reports.
"It's not enough"
When it comes to defense, she apparently does not mince her words. She is actively involved as the Chair of the Security Committee in the Federation of German Industries (BDI). While she considers the special fund of 100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr a good step, Wiegand does not think it is enough and aligns herself with Defense Minister Boris Pistorius. She also criticizes the procurement process of the Bundeswehr as slow and far too cumbersome.
She finds the German government's effort to spend 2% of the gross domestic product on defense half-hearted: "A clear commitment cannot be seen," says Wiegand. "I wonder what else needs to happen." She calls for not only thinking about the war in Ukraine. Because there is a competition of political systems with autocracies like China. "A resilient democracy is needed," the manager calls out to politics. It is legitimate in her role as CEO that with this stance she is pursuing the interests of Renk as well.