ABB on April 29 reported stable top line results for the first quarter of 2014 as the company benefited from its broad presence in early-cycle industrial sectors and its well-balanced geographic scope.
Orders of $10.4 billion were steady near last year’s level despite continued slow large order intake from utilities and late-cycle industries. Revenues amounted to $9.5 billion, with automation revenues increasing and power revenues declining, the latter reflecting the lower opening order backlog in power compared to the same quarter in 2013.
Operational EBITDA margins were higher in low voltage products and process automation and steady in power products and discrete automation and motion, excluding the expected dilutive impact of the Power-One acquisition. Group operational EBITDA and margin were adversely impacted by weak operational performance in power systems and charges related mainly to large engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projects in offshore wind and solar power generation, resulting in a loss in PS in the quarter. Cash from operations improved in the quarter despite the deterioration in Power Systems.
“We remain on track in four divisions who combined to deliver higher early-cycle orders, steady earnings and stronger cash flow in the first quarter,” said ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer. “Strong order growth and cash generation in discrete automation and motion and solid revenue execution in low voltage products were highlights in the quarter. Power products maintained its solid profitability, and operational EBITDA margin in process automation was at record levels.
“With the divestiture of Thomas & Betts HVAC business, and the Power-One Power Solutions business we announced yesterday, we are making good progress in our portfolio pruning efforts.
“We are disappointed with the continued poor performance in power systems and are rigorously executing actions that go well beyond the previously-announced strategic realignment,” Spiesshofer said. “After a thorough review, the new leadership has initiated a ‘step change’ program and already taken a number of corrective decisions. These include the discontinuation of bidding for solar EPC projects and further management changes. The transformation of PS will take longer than originally expected, but we remain confident that the outcome will be a strong and competitive business.
“Looking ahead, our ambitions in 2014 are to continue the solid performance in four of our five divisions and drive the turnaround in PS.” he said. “At the same time, our leadership team is making good progress on our longer-term strategic plan and we look forward to presenting it at our capital markets day in September.”