INVESTOŘI V MSK
The Exceptional Successes of a Czech
Company on the German Market
It is not every day that a Czech company successfully manages an acquisition west of our border.
We talked to Jakub Weimann, a board member at BONATRANS GROUP a.s., about just how this
came to be accomplished and how it can be used to inspire other Czech companies.
Mr Weimann, in last year’s interview you outlined your
plans and goals for the future. Did any of these plans come
to fruition? What is new at BONATRANS GROUP a.s.?
Throughout this last year, we, along with everyone
else, have been faced with the coronavirus pandemic
and I believe we have been doing well. We managed
to maintain 24/7 production uptime and were able to
reach record performance. We also managed to increase
our market share, mainly in the supply of materials for
newly assembled wagons. We additionally established
a framework agreement with the Škoda Transportation
group, making us their exclusive wheelset supplier.
Furthermore, we successfully took part in the Trenitalia
tender, making us one of two wheel suppliers for the
Italian market, accomplishing one of our strategic goals.
Thanks to these events, I believe that we had a successful
year. At the same time, we also continued investment in
company development. Over the last two years, the figure
of this investment rose above a billion Czech crowns and
we managed to secure the follow-through of the funding.
In 2014, you acquired the German company GHHRadsatz and created the GHH-BONATRANS group.
What was the origin behind your motivation to enter
the German market?
The German railway market is the largest one in Europe,
involving top-class companies, which makes it a reference
market. The decision itself stems from the early 90s, when
BONATRANS began entering into western markets. We
obtained a certificate from the German railway company,
which was key. Gradually, we became the biggest supplier
of wheelsets for the German railway, for both passenger
and freight transport, and for all types of rolling stock,
which was a very important milestone for us.
A while later, in 2014, we acquired GHH-Radsatz, which is
a company that supplies products that are complementary
to our own. While we specialize in so-called heavy rail
products (aimed at trains and majority of metro cars),
GHH-Radsatz focuses on light rail vehicles (such as trams
and minority of carriages for metro systems). When we
saw the opportunity to acquire a German company, which
so perfectly complemented our own, it was a very logical
step, and our shareholders agreed.
When you were expanding into Germany, did you
turn to the Chamber of Commerce or another similar
The entire process was built on the fact that we understood
(and still do) the market and our competition very well;
GHH-Radsatz was included in this, so there was no need.
Detailed knowledge of the market is one of the main
reasons why BONATRANS has been so successful.
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Did you encounter any issues that you had to overcome
in the acquisition process?
Of course we did. It was a merger of two companies from
vastly different environments, with differing histories and
products. GHH-Radsatz is located in Oberhausen, an
industrial region similar to Ostrava, also a former center for
metallurgy and coal mining, however, it is also in western
Germany, sporting a very different culture. The merger
mainly involved the consolidation of processes necessary
to run the company along with the familiarization of
business and technology. Therefore our mentalities were
different, however, our goal was the same and the mutual
respect the two companies held for each other in their
fields helped us come together.
The path Czech companies have to take to enter the
German market is a difficult one. How can they achieve
success in a foreign market? Do you have any tips?
It is key to understand the mentality of people already in
the market and how the market functions—not only who the
customer is, but often also who the customer’s customer is.