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Volvo Still Shopping

May 13, 2000

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Volvo hasn't finished spending money yet. After the dust settles on its deal to purchase Renault's truck operations, the company intends to strengthen its position with acquisitions in other key commercial areas.

Leif Johansson, chief executive of the Swedish vehicles group, told the Financial Times that even after the Renault deal, Volvo would have significant financial resources to expand its construction equipment, bus, aero and marine engine businesses.
Analysts believe the group's main focus is likely to be construction equipment, where it is the global number four behind Caterpillar, Komatsu and CNH, which was formed last year from a merger of Case and New Holland.
They say Volvo would still have about SKr13 billion of cash after the Renault purchase, and it could raise SKr20 billion by selling its shares in Scania, following its abortive SKr60 billion bid for the company. It could also comfortably raise more than SKr10 billion of debt.
"Clearly, after Renault, we would find it hard to make major acquisitions in trucks without attracting regulatory concerns. But in our four other business areas there's good reason to look at acquisitions as a way to grow," Johansson told the Times.
Expansion in construction equipment could be hampered by a shortage of candidates to buy. One possibility, the British group JCB, has made clear its determination to remain independent.
Another possibility would be to take over the construction equipment operations of John Deere of the US, the world's biggest maker of tractors.
Anders Fagerlund, automotive analyst at UBS Warburg, said Volvo needed to bolster its US distribution network, tackle a weak position in Japan and add backhoe loaders to its product range.
Mr Johansson said: "Our ambition is to be either number one or number two, or have a superior growth rate to the people who are. We clearly have a superior growth rate in construction equipment at the moment."
Volvo's bus operations were being turned round. "But we are still nowhere near where I want to be from a profitability perspective. Before we take on other acquisitions, let's fix what we have already."
Mr Johansson said Volvo needed to consider the best way to sell its 45 per cent stake in Scania, ranging from selling the shares in the market to handing them to Volvo shareholders.

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