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Barnevik steps down as ABB chairman

Percy Barnevik has been with ABB for 22 years Keystone Archive

Percy Barnevik, chairman of Swiss-Swedish technology group ABB, has unexpectedly stepped down.

Announcing his departure on Wednesday, Barnevik said the company’s poor share performance had prompted him to leave.

ABB said on Wednesday that Juergen Dormann, a board member who is also chairman of the management board at pharmaceuticals group Aventis, would succeed Barnevik.

Dormann will prepare other board nominations for the March shareholders meeting.

In a statement Barnevik said it was time for him to leave after five years in the chair at the engineering and technology group. “I also with my departure take my share of the responsibility for the less good performance of ABB shares in recent years,” he added.

Barnevik, born in 1941, had been with ABB for 22 years, including eight years as chief executive of Sweden’s ASEA, nine years as chief executive of the merged ABB and the past five years as non-executive chairman.

Barnevik said that while he was not resigning under pressure from investors, there had certainly been calls for his resignation.

“Now is a good time because we have a new chief executive since the start of this year,” he said, referring to Jörgen Centerman who succeeded Barnevik’s successor in the top seat – Goran Lindahl – at the start of 2001.

“It is also about taking responsibility,” he said. ABB shares have dropped from a high of SFr54.50 in February 2000 to as low as nine francs on October 5, 2001.

Barenevik said Dormann had successfully presided over the merger of a French and German company and that he was the right person to push the company forward.

He rejected criticism that ABB had still not completed its own merger. “We merged long ago. What we need now is to deliver performance,” he added.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR