Ericsson tips Volvo head as new board chair

Swedish group Ericsson, the world's biggest mobile phone network maker, said Thursday it planned to appoint Volvo chief executive Leif Johansson as chairman of its board.

Ericsson tips Volvo head as new board chair

Johansson, 59, said in December he would be stepping down from the helm of the world number two heavy goods vehicle manufacturer.

He had been Volvo’s chief executive since 1997 and refocused the company on heavy vehicles, selling its car business to Ford in 1999. It was subsequently bought by China’s Geely in August.

Ericsson’s current chairman Michael Treschow took over in March 2002 and announced in December he would step down.

He also chairs the Unilever board.

Handelsbanken analyst Martin Nilsson said Johansson’s appointment would not have a significant impact on Ericsson.

“Ericsson’s business is not driven by owners, it is essentially driven by the chief executive and the management. Therefore the choice of chairman is less important than in many other companies,” Nilsson told Dow Jones Newswires.

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Sweden’s Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group was hit by a sharp drop in earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but business rebounded at the end of the year.

Sweden's Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings
Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

In 2020, the group saw “dramatic fluctuations in demand” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.

For 2021, Volvo raised its sales forecasts in its trucks division – its core business – in Europe, North America and Brazil.

However, it said it also expected “production disturbances and increased costs” due to a “strained” supply chain, noting a global shortage of semiconductors across industries.

The truck making sector is particularly sensitive to the global economic situation and is usually hard hit during crises.

In March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Volvo suspended operations at most of its sites in 18 countries and halted production at Renault Trucks, which it owns, in Belgium and France.

Operations gradually resumed mid-year, but not enough to compensate for the drop in earnings.

With annual sales down 22 percent to 338 billion kronor (33.4 billion euros, $40 billion), the group posted a 46 percent plunge in net profit to 19.3 billion kronor (1.9 billion euros).

Operating margin fell from 11.5 to 8.1 percent.

However, the group did manage to cut costs by 20 percent.

“We have significantly improved our volume and cost flexibility, which were crucial factors behind our earnings resilience in 2020,” the group said.

Volvo's business regained strength in the second half of the year.

“Customer usage of trucks and machines increased when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased during the summer and this development continued during both the third and fourth quarters,” it said.

“Both the transport activity and the construction business are back at levels on par with the prior year in most markets.”

For the fourth quarter alone, the company reported a 38-percent rise in net profit from a year earlier.