CEO of C.C. Dieter Kersting about Novum Capital - and more
18 June 2021
In February 2021, roughly 100 days ago, Krefeld-based slag processor C.C. Umwelt was taken over by a new shareholder: Blue Phoenix, a slag recycling company based in Rotterdam (Netherlands). The new owner purchased its 100-percent stake in the slag specialist from Frankfurt-based investment firm Novum Capital. Here, the CEO of C.C., Dieter Kersting (63), takes a look back – and forward.
(This interview was first published on the website of C.C. Group. Thanks to the management for allowing us to publish the interview here as well.)
Mr Kersting, in February 2021, the C.C. Group was acquired by a new shareholder with a 100-percent stake in the company – for the second time since 2018. Looking back, what are your thoughts on two transfers of ownership happening in such a relatively short time?
Dieter Kersting: I am very happy about it. In 2020, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the C.C. Group. At the time, our market position was already better than it had been before Novum Capital acquired our company. Novum played a very important role in our company's development into a successful business with seven locations in Germany. Another important factor in this was, of course, our DNA, which is that of a medium-sized company. And now, with Blue Phoenix, we can continue with our progress.
Let’s talk about Novum Capital a bit more. The public’s perception of financial investors like Novum isn’t always favourable. What are your thoughts on this?
I have good memories of our time together. Novum Capital was by our side for three years, providing intense and positive support. Among other things, we were able to invest a lot of money in technological innovations. Another important aspect was being able to concentrate on our core business. Novum Capital literally pushed us to do this – and quite rightly so. Up until then, we had been paying too much attention to peripheral activities.
What do you mean exactly?
Before Novum Capital acquired its stake in our company, we not only processed waste incineration slags and safely disposed of filter dust in backfill mines, we were also heavily involved in the scrap trade, for example. With the explicit support of Novum Capital, we moved away from this area to focus solely on slags, filter dust, and mineral recovery. We realised that, just like C.C. is a slag specialist, other companies are scrap specialists. And we are not.
How did you feel about these strategic changes? After all, you have been with the C.C. Group for more than 30 years and played your part in pursuing these peripheral activities.
I must admit, I was taken aback at first when Novum Capital introduced the idea of selling off our scrap segment. After all, there are people who are affected by such decisions. But it’s a bit like in football: if a player doesn’t quite fit into the structure of the team, then sooner or later he will move to a different club. And in most cases, everyone will benefit from this.
Even the C.C. staff in question?
The company that acquired our scrap business also took on all of the employees. We managed to implement these changes in such a way that, ultimately, everybody could feel good about them: the staff, C.C.’s management team, and the shareholder.
Let’s revisit your football analogy: Changes to the team usually mean changes to the playing system as well. Was it the same for you when Novum Capital acquired its stake in your company?
Yes, especially as, up until then, we had not been implementing certain aspects of modern business management in the way that we should have. Working with Novum, the C.C. management team modernised not only our technological means but also our organisational structures, business management processes, and accounting and compliance.
Which is good news for the Blue Phoenix Group, too?
Of course. These changes will also benefit Blue Phoenix as Novum Capital’s successor as our shareholder. For example, our slag processing technologies complement each other perfectly.
“We have already seen within the first 100 days with Blue Phoenix as the new shareholder just how great our synergies can be.”
In what way?
Well, to name but one example: our “Stratego” machinery. It is the first of its kind in the entire world, and it takes the processing of non-ferrous (NF) metals from waste incineration slags to a whole new level. Blue Phoenix already operates similar machinery – and now we are combining these two technological approaches. We have already seen within the first 100 days with Blue Phoenix as the new shareholder just how great our synergies can be.
What kind of synergies?
Staying with the exchange of technological expertise: This will once again increase the yield of our slag processing machinery and the quality of the metals we recover from the slag. But there also advantages for storage management, for example. This exchange is exciting, and we are each learning from the other.
Why is storage area management so important?
Let me give you some background information first: The incinerated household waste leaves the incinerator as slag with a temperature of up to 1 000 degrees Celsius. The slag is doused in water and then transported to our storage areas by truck. There, the raw slag is left to dry to avoid it clogging up the machinery. An endothermic reaction takes place within the slag, meaning the slag itself creates warmth. Clever storage area management takes into account the respective type of endothermic reaction. Another factor is pressure.
Can you elaborate?
Scientists have discovered that, depending on the storage height of the slag at the storage site, the temperature of the slag will ideally rise to 40, 30, or 20 degrees Celsius. Depending on the different temperatures and pressure, we can improve the metal yield from our machines. This is a science unto itself. And now, we can share our knowledge with our new partner Blue Phoenix. This exchange is valuable – for both partners.
How have the C.C. Group’s employees adjusted to the new shareholder?
Like its predecessor Novum Capital, Blue Phoenix is involving us in the decisions. And we are already familiar with this type of shareholder: Blue Phoenix, too, is a financial investor, backed, among others, by pension funds. Novum Capital's approach was accepted within our company. The same applies to Blue Phoenix now; in fact, even more so.
Even more? How so? Surely that is not a given?
Well, actually, it is. Blue Phoenix is not only a financial investor, but also a strategic investor who is very well positioned in our market: with tremendous technical expertise and many locations all over the world.
And what is the situation outside your company, i.e. with your customers – especially the operators of waste incineration plants?
Exactly the same. In the days running up to the transition from Novum Capital to Blue Phoenix, we personally notified as many customers as possible. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. And we are convinced that it will stay that way.
“Sustainability and the circular economy are becoming increasingly important. C.C.’s customers can rely on our support to help them shape a successful future for themselves.”
What do your customers value in particular?
Our customers have high-standard and rather conservative expectations. They expect a high degree of competence regarding the core business, a secure financial basis, and technological innovations. After all, sustainability and the circular economy are becoming increasingly important. C.C.’s customers can rely on our support to help them shape a successful future for themselves.
Tell us about the plans you and your new shareholder Blue Phoenix have for your joint future.
Above all, we want to continue to improve in quality. With our “Stratego” slag processing machinery, we have shown that we can successfully implement innovations and offer customers an even better price-performance ratio. Incidentally, other European countries are nowhere near as advanced as Germany when it comes to promoting a circular economy in slag recycling. That is why we would like to apply our expertise at other domestic and also foreign locations in the future.
In addition, you are also considering new ways in which to recycle the residual slag, aren’t you?
Indeed, we are. Up until now, our customers have used processed slags mainly in landfill and road construction. However, slags can also be used for other, more complex projects.
I don’t want to give away any details yet. Suffice to say: our main goal at all times is to contribute to the reuse of supposed “waste materials” in order to conserve natural resources.
You have been with the C.C. Group for more than three decades now. Have you still not had enough?
(Laughs) Of course not! My weekends are enough retirement for me! As long as I’m fit and healthy and enjoy my work, I want to stay loyal to the C.C. Group. I have absolutely no objection to staying on for another three, four, or even five years! I am still hungry for the success of our company. And in any case: the word ‘enough’ does not exist in our vocabulary here at C.C.!
Thank you for talking to us.
The interview was conducted by Mario Müller-Dofel.
Visit the C.C. website here.