ABB chief steps down despite rising profits

The Swiss-Swedish engineering group ABB said Wednesday that its Chief Executive Officer Fred Kindle is leaving the company due to irreconcilable differences about how to lead the company.

The company’s board of directors named Chief Financial Officer Michel Demare as interim CEO while the search for a replacement to Kindle was underway, ABB said a statement.

It said the board reaffirmed their support for strategic targets announced in September 2007 and confidence in management.

Kindle joined the company in September 2004 and took over as president and CEO in January 2005, overseeing a period of strong organic growth and a return to profitability for the company which operates in around 100 countries and employs more than 110,000 people.

“The Board is very thankful to Fred Kindle for driving the company to the extraordinary level of performance it achieved over the last three years,” Chairman Hubertus von Grünberg said. “Under his leadership, ABB today is a leading company in respect of growth, profitability and business ethics.”

ABB also said on Wednesday it had earned a net profit of $3.8 billion in 2007, more than double its 2006 result.

The figure was also considerably above the $3.1 billion dollars expected by analysts.

Earnings before interest and tax rose 54 percent to four billion dollars, while revenues rose 19 percent to 29.2 billion, also beating analysts’ expectations.

The company’s board proposed a dividend of 0.48 Swiss francs per share, and a share buyback worth up to 2.2 billion Swiss francs.