OpEx Awards winner Outstanding Achievement in innovation: EQT Partners

EQT Partners’ approach with robotics firm Piab was dependent on innovation – in both Piab’s products and in EQT’s approach.

EQT had been following Swedish automation and robotics specialist Piab for a number of years when a new CEO, Anders Lindqvist, kickstarted a phase of accelerated growth back in 2014.

EQT was attracted by the business’s technological prowess, customer relationships and product design, as well as the secular megatrends around the third industrial revolution. The firm was particularly impressed by Piab’s ability to continuously innovate.

Furthermore, the decision of Peter Tell, a member of the founding family, to re-invest and remain on the board convinced EQT of the investment opportunity. The firm ended up acquiring Piab from Altor Equity Partners, in partnership with the founding Tell family, in January 2016.

Following the acquisition, EQT set about reinforcing Piab’s sales team, implementing a sales excellence programme, which resulted in an increase in distribution locations from 650 to close to 1,200. In addition, EQT helped to revamp Piab’s digital marketing strategy, driving a 30 percent increase in leads. It also invested significantly in innovation and product development, resulting in eight new products being launched every year and generating around 46 percent revenue growth at exit.

“EQT and the board worked closely with Piab to improve the operational performance of the company, while also managing its geographical expansion”

Carl Johan Renström
EQT Partners

Furthermore, alongside this organic growth, EQT backed Piab in completing and integrating four strategic bolt-ons – Kenos, Vaculex, SAS Automation and Feba Automation – over the course of just two-and-a-half years.

These acquisitions expanded the company’s product offering into adjacent technologies, such as mechanical and robotic grippers, as well as ergonomic handling solutions, broadening Piab’s total addressable market, as well as its value proposition for customers.

As part of its expansion strategy, EQT also targeted international growth, in particular China. The firm built a new team including a country head, three sales managers, 10 full-time sales employees and three application managers. Piab’s revenues in this market accelerated to 50 percent run-rate growth, with the establishment of over 15 new distribution channel partnerships. This expansion also laid the foundation for the investment rationale for Piab’s next owner.

While EQT ran an IPO-led dual track process in the second half of 2017, Piab was ultimately sold to Patricia Industries in June the following year. At this point the company’s employee count had grown by 50 percent, while sales and EBITDA had increased by 85 percent.

“EQT and the board worked closely with Piab to improve the operational performance of the company, while also managing its geographical expansion, new product development and sourcing suitable strategic acquisitions,” says EQT partner and investment adviser Carl Johan Renström. “Combined with a significant period of organic growth, these factors have helped Piab become the global market leader it is today.”

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