Last updated: May 10, 2013 4:55 pm

ABB chief Joe Hogan steps down from Swiss engineer

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ABB, the Swiss engineering group, is looking for a new chief executive after Joe Hogan unexpectedly decided to step down for what the company said were “private reasons”.

Mr Hogan – who joined ABB as its first non-European chief executive in 2008 after spending more than 20 years at American rival General Electric – will continue to lead the group until the succession has been organised.

Mr Hogan’s predecessor, Fred Kindle, departed ABB after a clash with its chairman, Hubertus von Grünberg. However, ABB said that there had been no clash between Mr Hogan and Mr von Grünberg, and that neither operational issues nor ill health were factors in Mr Hogan’s decision either.

Mr von Grünberg said Mr Hogan had done a “remarkable job” in leading the company through the “deepest economic crisis in living memory” and that the board “sincerely regrets” his departure.

Mr Hogan, who turned 56 this week, said his decision to leave had been difficult. “I look forward to making a smooth transition with as little disruption as possible to the positive momentum that ABB has established,” he said.

Mr Hogan’s departure comes at an awkward time for ABB. The company has a relatively new chief financial officer in Eric Elzvik, who replaced Michel Demaré after the latter left to become chairman of Syngenta, and only took up his new post on February 1.

The group is also in the process of buying the US solar energy company Power-One, having announced a $1.03bn deal barely three weeks ago.

However, analysts at Citi said that although Mr Hogan’s exit created “some uncertainty and possibly some short-term share price weakness”, they did not expect it to result in fundamental changes at the company.

“We do not expect any major directional shift at ABB with the board likely to appoint a candidate of a similar strategy [and] mentality to Mr Hogan,” they wrote.

During his tenure, Mr Hogan focused on boosting ABB’s technological prowess in research and development and in the fields of power and automation, investing about $20bn in the process.

Mr Hogan also worked hard to reduce geographical gaps in ABB’s portfolio, particularly in the US, where he believed the company was under-represented in comparison with rivals such as GE and Siemens.

In January last year ABB bought American low voltage group Thomas & Betts, having also bought Baldor, the biggest US maker of electrical motors by sales, in late 2010.

The group is searching both internally and externally for candidates to replace Mr Hogan.

ABB shares closed down slightly at 0.2 per cent to SFr21.49 in Zürich.

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