| 15.1°C Dublin

Schneider preparing for power surge due to QE

Close

Chief executive officer Jean-Pascal Tricoire - Though things slowed in the past few years, the management is talking about a renewed surge of activity in the coming years (Getty Images)

Chief executive officer Jean-Pascal Tricoire - Though things slowed in the past few years, the management is talking about a renewed surge of activity in the coming years (Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

<a href='http://cdn4.independent.ie/incoming/article31106498.ece/cd269/binary/BUSINESS-Schneider-graphic.png' target='_blank'>Click to see a bigger version of the graphic</a>

<a href='http://cdn4.independent.ie/incoming/article31106498.ece/cd269/binary/BUSINESS-Schneider-graphic.png' target='_blank'>Click to see a bigger version of the graphic</a>

Schneider has four businesses: buildings, industry, infrastructure and information technology, with a market value of €40bn (Getty Images)

Schneider has four businesses: buildings, industry, infrastructure and information technology, with a market value of €40bn (Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

/

Chief executive officer Jean-Pascal Tricoire - Though things slowed in the past few years, the management is talking about a renewed surge of activity in the coming years (Getty Images)

A famous diplomat said many years ago that history teaches us that men and nations behave wisely "once they have exhausted all other alternatives".

That precious bit of wisdom occurs to me as I search to equip my investment portfolio with shares in big European companies that hope to benefit from the ECB's programme of 'quantitative easing' (QE).

Many of the great European firms have 'form' when it comes to involvement in the armaments industry and some have been on friendly terms with politicians so controversial that their pictures might not be welcome on the boardroom wall. Nevertheless, it hasn't prevented many of them from becoming big and respectable and even bellwethers of global business activity.

I've been throwing my slide rule over the Paris-based company Schneider Electrical, which was once one of Europe's leading manufacturers of weapons.

Today, however, it sits alongside companies like ABB and Siemens as a global leader of energy and automation management, power equipment and a builder of giant retail and residential blocks around the world. Schneider has 150,000 employees; trades in 100 countries; has sales of €25bn; is one of the top 40 companies in France. In the last decade, it has enhanced its global footprint, trebling its size, mainly by acquisitions in Germany, India, Japan, New Zealand and Spain.

Though things slowed in the past few years, the management is talking about a renewed surge of activity in the coming years. QE won't interfere with that progress.

Schneider has four businesses: buildings, industry, infrastructure and information technology, with a market value of €40bn. The company's largest division is building (including residential), providing products and services for the building industry like lighting, air conditioning and elevators.

Revenues last year were €11bn and North America was the main driver of growth.

Its infrastructure business, consisting of ports, rail, airports, oil and gas, had less than half the sales of its building business, at €5.2bn last year. Its portfolio includes process control, power supply, utility management and smart networks. Sales in oil and gas are expected to decline 10pc this year, but following the acquisition of the Russian company Electroshield, it has strengthened its offering. Russia is now Schneider's fourth-largest market, employing 11,000 people.

The company's involvement in industry includes process automation, machine control, power supply and utility management.

To increase its presence in the high margin automation business, it recently acquired the UK group Invensys for £3.4bn. This should improve sales, which were €5.6bn last year.

Its information technology had sales of €3.3bn, up 6.5pc, mainly driven by data centres, with North America and Europe performing well, and Asia-Pacific being flat.

After a decade of building and improving its portfolio, the company anticipates growth and expansion in the coming years.

Urbanisation and industrialisation are going to be the driver of its business. It says cities today account for 50pc of the world population. Within the next 40 years Schneider sees that growing to 70pc. At the beginning of the decade, 20pc of Schneider sales were in developing markets, that share is currently 43pc.

Full year revenue at €25bn was up 6.5pc and net income at €1.9bn up 3pc, more than double that of €825m six years ago. The company's target for this year is for a single-digit increase in revenues and it expects North America to be part of that expansion.

Schneider is looking to a stabilisation of its markets in Western Europe, though not surprisingly Russia will be 'difficult'. China is expected to gradually improve.

Its share price is hovering around its record high of €72. Investors will also be fairy chuffed by the recent announcement of a share buyback of €1.5bn over the next two years and welcome the increase in dividend. Schneider looks like an attractive investment.

Nothing in this section should be taken as a recommendation, either explicit or implicit to buy any of the shares mentioned.

Irish Independent