Hasslacher sites in Central Europe © Timber-Online
Interview with Christoph Kulterer

Unbridled rise in the European league

Article by Gerd Ebner, translated by Susanne Höfler | 19.07.2017 - 15:57

The Hasslacher group grew into one of Europe's biggest timber industries over the past 20 years. Thanks to the Nordlam takeover, the group became the undisputed number one in Europe in terms of glulam production, with a 2016 production volume of 140,000 m³ at the company's headquarters as well as its site in Hermagor. The additional volume from Magdeburg will amount to 200,000 m³. Including tested glulam beams (GLT®; 100,000 m³/yr; Preding) and cross-laminated timber (80,000 m³, Stall im Mölltal) a total of 520,000 m³/yr. of laminated timber is manufactured. With this, the Carinthian enterprise will probably rise to Europe's top 3.
To produce such a quantity of laminated timber, 700,000 m³ lumber are necessary. In the three remaining sawmills in Sachsenburg, Preding and Malaya Vishera about 1.2 million sm³/yr are processed.

BSH Top Ten Plan 2016
  Enterprise Location Production 2015 Plan 2016 Special features
1. Hasslacher + Nordlam Sachsenburg
330,000 340,000

Nordlam 200,000 m³; Hasslacher 140,000 m³ (each in 2016)

2. Mayr-Melnhof Holz Gaishorn 180,000 230,000

Curved components starting at a 3-m radius, Duo/Trio

3. Binderholz Jenbach 170,000 225,000

CNC joining, custom parts, KVH, JAS

4. Mosser Randegg 160,000 170,000 PEFC, Duo, NSi
5. Schneider Eberhardzell 105,000 135,000 DE, Duo/Trio, Nature Plus
6. Hüttemann Wismar Wismar 120,000 120,000

JAS, CE, WCLIB, Duo, CNC joining, HBE, EN 14080:2013

7. Bullinger Neuruppin 110,000 120,000

Commissions available within 3 working days

8. Pfeifer Holz Imst 100,000 110,000

Automated strength grading

9. Weinberger Holz Abtenau, Reichenfels 95,000 105,000

Settlement-free log house planks.

10. Eugen Decker Morbach 100,000 100,000

KVH, Duo, glulam, CLT

Timber-Online 2017

Hasslacher Norica Timber is always good for a surprise takeover. Hasslacher's acquisition of Nordlam was completely unexpected. It turned your company into the largest glulam producer in Europe. What was the rationale behind buying this giant producer in Magdeburg?
In the past two years, we invested a lot in a very positive sales development. Since the middle of 2015, we are also confronted with very satisfying demand. This is why we wanted to expand - in Nordlam we saw an opportunity to even take a relatively big step. The company operates markets in which we ourselves are not that strong: Northern Germany, Spain, and France. From Magdeburg, we can virtually attend to the whole of Europe - and of course our domestic market Germany.

Nordlam's liabilities amounted to € 48 million according to the annual statement. It is probably reasonable to assume that the purchasing price must have been higher. How does Hasslacher Norica Timber intend to compensate for this sum?
I will not comment on figures from the past. There is no doubt that Nordlam constitutes a high-performance production. Now, we will apply our philosophy of production - mostly order-picked goods - to the Magdeburg site. This is also an organizational matter that we will solve. We want to increase production by 10 to 20% relatively quickly. This would amount to a total volume of 220,000 to 240,000 m³/yr. in Magdeburg.

Central European timber industries show a low single-digit percentage as their cash flow. Often, liabilities must be covered with these sums as well. How does Hasslacher Norica Timber tackle these regular expansion surges?
Our financial statements are public, I will not comment on those of others. Our cash flows and results from the past years were all satisfying. This way we managed to cover both investments and liabilities. Our growth was based on solid grounds and yielded the according results. What we earned was immediately reinvested in the company.

Several of the people we talked to declined the acquisition of Nordlam because they ascertained that two of the production plants produced less than one did previously. Nordlam most recently recorded a decline in sales - and this during a period in which almost all other producers were growing. How will it be possible to achieve first successes here?
The second expansion stage in Magdeburg was launched during the worst economical situation. Times are easier now. With optimized processes and the advantage of two production sites we will be able to make it. Especially in terms of logistics we can still realize particular synergies.
Nordlam is delivering around 40% of its production to Italy. The corresponding freight costs must probably be € 15/m³ higher than those from Austrian producers.
Medium-term, it will more likely be Sachsenburg that operates the south of Europe. Magdeburg will be used for optimizing our transport routes within Germany. Both sites are perfectly fit to operate the European market, so both offer potential for optimization. Furthermore, Magdeburg is JAS certified.

Considering the market situation, we wanted to expand. With Nordlam, we are taking a particularly big step.

Christoph Kulterer

In Germany, order volumes are relatively small. Nordlam's most recent delivery times have been said to amount to about 20 days. Leading companies only take a fourth of this time. How will you be able to change this?
In Sachsenburg, we proved that it is possible to deliver small batches on short notice. We will implement this strategy in Magdeburg, as well.

According to figures known to us, Nordlam most recently produced 200,000 m³/yr and incurred losses amounting to € 4 million. This would mean a loss of € 20/m³. How does one compensate for losses of that magnitude?

Lowering production costs will also be the key to achieving a positive balance in Magdeburg. Where are the hidden potentials? Which priorities can be set?
We have a plan for how to reach positive numbers within two years. Gerhard Göritzer in his role as the on-site managing director will make this happen. He will be overseeing both glulam productions.

Industry insiders expected Magdeburg to be bought by a timber industry planning on processing its lumber there. This is not the case with your company. Will Nordlam keep on covering demand with a mix of Nordic, Austrian and German timber?

The supply in Magdeburg has already been made up of half Scandinavian, half Central European goods up until now. This system worked well and will therefore be continued.

Sachsenburg/AT, Preding/AT, Bled/SI, Malaya Vishera/RU, Kleinheubach/DE are just some of the sites of the Hasslacher group. Will there be a strategic rounding off in the upcoming years?
In Austria, some consolidations were already performed - I am thinking of the shutdown of sawmills in Arnoldstein and St. Veit or most recently in Liebenfels. The current sites perfectly match our strategy to become one of the leading providers of wood products. As for glulam, we already managed to become the market leader in Europe and to establish a production for standard products and special components (editor's note: Hess Timber in Kleinheubach). In Preding, we also produce planed goods, pellets and KVH. Our Russian site is complementing the Asian market. From my point of view, our enterprise is very well positioned with this configuration.

When will it be possible to start thinking about a site expansion - for example with cross-laminated timber? 14 ha of open space are said to be still available.
We bought Nordlam because of its glulam production. This will be our focus for now. But there is enough space for other ideas. Apart from that: As Timber-Online reported, there are CLT expansion projects of about 100,000 m³ in the pipeline. We will see if the market will grow just as fast.

A glance at recent acquisition shows that with Nordlam, LIP Bled, Buchacher, Hess Timber and Leitinger, companies were acquired that were financially or strategically challenged. The intention seems to be to make them more profitable by means of synergy effects as well as increases and concentration of productivity. Is this also Hasllacher Norica Timber's way of working?
We have a clear strategy for how to develop our company: expansions of existing sites or acquisitions that fit in. Synergy effects in combination with optimizations on the market can lead to growth. We have done so several times already.

Where do you see your company in ten years?
In the past ten years, we developed from being a lumber producer to an integrated full-service provider. Also in the future, we will focus on the wood construction market. We want to be a strong partner in timber construction. At the same time, it is necessary to maximize added value.

Hasslacher Norica Timber
1901 founded by Jakob Hasslacher
1998 fire in Sachsenburg: setup of the new line with a cutting capacity of 400,000 sm³/yr (burnt down line was limited to 130,000 sm³/yr; until 1996: 80,000 sm³/yr.)
1998 acquisition of sawmills Arnoldstein and St. Veit an der Glan from the brothers Feltrinelli -> factories were merged into the Hasslacher Drauland Holzindustrie GmbH.
2001 start of glulam production by founding the Noritec enterprise in Stall im Mölltal
2005 after a fire in the glulam factory Noritec in Stall im Mölltal in December, Kulterer decides to re-establish the production at the main site in Sachsenburg. After a construction period of only six months, the machines could take up operation in the 18,000 m² hall next to the planing facility.
2007 Herbert Kulterer hands over the company to his sons Stefan and Christoph.
2008 takeover of 330,000 sm³/yr.-sawmill Kogler Holz in Liebenfels
2009 35 % shareholding in LIP Bled, a plywood producer with 230 employees
2009 continuation of Holzindustrie Preding GmbH as well as takeover of Russian subsidiary Madok in Malaya Vishera
2011 Hasslacher Norica Timber is taking over bankrupt timber construction company Buchacher, Hermagor; setup of CLT production in Stall im Mölltal
2016 75% takeover of Hess Timber in Kleinheubach/DE. This is the first site in Germany.
2016 acquisition of the machine park of the RZ sawmill; re-sorting was relocated to Sachsenburg, the rest was disposed.
End of 2016 Liebenfels site is closed.
2017 Hasslacher Norica Timber, Sachsenburg, will be supplying the glulam supports as well as the CLT wall elements for the Hoho.
In July 2017, Hasslacher Norica Timber acquires Nordlam, Magdeburg.