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Automation men promoted as ABB CEO steps down

01 October, 2000

Jörgen Centerman, head of ABB`s automation business, is taking over as president and chief executive of the company, following Göran Lindahl`s surprise decision to step down from this role. Centerman will take over the reins on 1 January and will be succeeded as head of automation by Jouko Karvinen, presently head of ABB`s drives operation.

The changes signify the growing importance of automation and IT to ABB. Automation accounted for a third of ABB`s revenue in the first nine months of this year and for 31% of its operating income.

During his four years at the helm, Lindahl has overseen a shift in ABB`s profile from its reliance on traditional heavy engineering activities in areas such as power generation, towards the electronic, e-commerce and information technology sectors. Lindahl, 55, said that after 30 years with ABB, he felt that the time was right to hand over to a younger leader with "a true IT profile".

"The environment we act in is changing faster and faster," he said. "I now feel it is the right time to hand over in order to safeguard a continued good development." Lindahl will remain a member of the ABB board.

Centerman, 48, has been with ABB since 1976. He has played a key role in integrating Elsag Bailey Automation which ABB bought for $2.1bn in 1998. ABB claimed that this acquisition made it the world leader in automation technology, but General Electric`s recent acquisition of Honeywell could result in a new market leader. There is speculation that this may have been a factor in Lindahl`s decision to step down.

"Centerman has an excellent track record and broad international experience, and he has been deeply involved in the strategic shift of ABB into an industrial IT leader," says Percy Barnevik, chairman of the ABB board and Lindahl`s predecessor. "Now, he can drive the transformation not only of his own segment but the whole of the ABB group."

Analysts see Centerman`s appointment as signalling a decisive shift for ABB. "Göran Lindahl oversaw the transition of ABB from an old-line industrial company to a streamlined, industrial IT focused company," says Larry O`Brien, director of research at the automation analyst ARC. "ABB Automation is the centrepiece of ABB`s industrial IT strategy and it is very fitting that Mr Centerman be charged with fulfilling the industrial IT vision for all of ABB".

Jouko Karvinen, 43, will join the ABB Group Executive Committee when he succeeds Centerman as head of the automation business in January.

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