1980s

1980s: MAJOR CHANGES

In spring 1979, Bo Ax:son Johnson took over management of Nordstjernan. As time went on, control of the operations was divided so that Bo assumed responsibility for the foundation-owned Nordstjernan, and the Mining Engineer continued operations in A. Johnson & Co (now Axel Johnson AB), which had been wholly owned by him since 1961 after Bo had sold his 50 percent of the shares.

In 1982, Svenska Väg and Nya Asfalt were merged to form Johnson Construction Company (JCC). At around the same time, Nordstjernan sold JS Saba to the Swedish financier Erik Penser, although Nordstjernan retained ownership of the NK department store. A few years later, Saba was acquired by A. Johnson & Co.

At this point, Nordstjernan assumed responsibility for reaching an agreement in the Swedish alloy steel industry through Avesta’s acquisition of parts of Fagersta, Uddeholm and Sandvik in 1984. Despite these and other business dealings, Nordstjernan continued to grow rapidly and remained difficult to manage, and many of its businesses were struggling when it came to profitability. Following extensive strategy work, it was decided that significant structural changes were needed and that an external CEO would be brought in to implement this new plan.

Bernt Magnusson was selected, with experience from various companies including Swedish Match. He took over as CEO in the beginning of 1985. Nordstjernan was now being transformed from a conglomerate of operating companies in a wide range of industries into a diverse investment company combining wholly owned businesses with blocks of shares in listed companies. Some 180 of the 380 legal entities owned by Nordstjernan were sold in the ensuing years after Bernt Magnusson took over.

To ensure access to risk capital, Nordstjernan began to diversify its ownership base. Nordstjernan was split into two companies: Nordstjernan I and II. Nordstjernan I became the Parent Company of Nordstjernan II, where essentially all of the company’s operating assets were placed. The companies began to streamline their operations, focusing on shipping, engineering and construction operations. Nordstjernan II was listed on the stock exchange in 1988, with Nordstjernan I as its principal owner.

Avesta was listed in 1987 and later merged with a division of British Steel under the name Avesta Sheffield. The sale of the Group’s shares in Avesta Sheffield in 1994 marked the end of an era. In addition to Avesta, four other companies were listed on the stock exchange: Databolin (1987), NK (1987), Silja Line (1990) and Linjebuss (1992).

1990s

1990s: FOCUS ON THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

In the late 1980s, the Board of Nordstjernan II decided to focus on a single core operation – the construction industry. And the Group certainly had a long history to build on. Strå Kalkbruk was acquired in 1915, Nya Asfalt was formed in 1928 and Svenska Väg in 1930. In 1985, the construction industry accounted for 30 percent of Nordstjernan’s sales. Nordic Construction Company (NCC) was formed in 1988 through the merger of JCC and Armerad Betong Vägförbättringar (ABV).

Much of the capital freed up through the sale and listing of these companies was invested in the hottest industry of the 1980s – real estate. This marked the beginning of yet another turbulent period in the company’s history. In 1989, Nordstjernan II was merged with its largest subsidiary, NCC, under the name NCC. Nordstjernan I was under the leadership of veteran businessman Bertil Hansson. He was succeeded in 1992 by Hans Larsson, who would later go on to become Chairman of Handelsbanken. NCC shares, which had traded at SEK 200 when the company was listed in 1988, could be purchased for SEK 6 in 1992. NCC faced significant pressure during the construction and property crisis of the early 1990s, but was able to achieve its goal of becoming one of the leading construction companies in the Nordic region thanks to the acquisition of SIAB in spring 1997.

2000s

2000s:FRESH START

At the general meeting of shareholders in 1997, Bo Ax:son Johnson left Nordstjernan’s Board of Directors after 50 years with the company. Following his death a month later, he was succeeded by his daughter Viveca Ax:son Johnson (born in 1963). Cousins Antonia Ax:son Johnson (born in 1943) and Viveca Ax:son Johnson now assumed responsibility for Nordstjernan.

Johan Björkman (1944–2007), who also served as Chairman of Stenbeck company Invik and the Third Swedish Pension Insurance Fund, was elected to the Board of Nordstjernan along with Marcus Storch, former CEO of AGA. Johan Björkman was also appointed as Chairman of Nordstjernan.

Tomas Billing (born in 1963) took over as CEO in 1999, having previously served as CEO of the property company Hufvudstaden. Nordstjernan comprised a large block of shares in NCC, the building at Stureplan, a smaller building on Karlavägen, Engelsberg Ironworks and Avesta Manor. Tomas Billing prioritized two things: improving profitability in NCC and ensuring that Nordstjernan did not have all its eggs in one basket.

The strategy of the new Board of Directors and management continued to build on Nordstjernan’s industrial heritage and extensive experience of owning and developing companies. A new business concept was established: “Nordstjernan is an investment company that creates long-term value growth through active ownership of companies with head offices in the Nordic region.”

The first decade of the new millennium was mainly characterized by investments in medium-sized companies with growth potential. Over a ten-year period, Nordstjernan acquired KMT (machines for waterjet cutting and precision grinding), Exel Composites (carbon fiber and fiberglass products), Välinge (flooring systems), Ramirent (equipment hire), Active Biotech (biotechnology), Stella Plastic/Rosti Group (plastic components), Sirius Machinery (tubefilling and feed equipment), Etac (products for mobility-impaired individuals), Salcomp (mobile phone chargers), Ekornes (furniture) and WinGroup (glazing products).

During this time, Tomas Billing gradually built up his management team. Among other, Nordstjernan recruited Peter Hofvenstam, Angela Langemar Olsson, Mats Heiman, Nora F. Larssen and Lars Lindgren.

Upon Johan Björkman’s death in 2007, he was succeeded as Nordstjernan’s Chairman by Viveca Ax:son Johnson.

2010s

2010s: CONTINUITY AND GROWTH

Nordstjernan continued along its established path, investing in both unlisted and listed companies with head offices in the Nordic region. The 2010s began with an investment in the kitchen manufacturer Nobia. In early 2011, Nordstjernan owned ten percent of the shares in the company. Nordstjernan later bought an additional ten percent, making it the company’s largest owner.

Nordstjernan also carried out divestments, including the sale of Välinge in 2011, KMT in 2013 and nearly half of its shares in Salcomp in 2013. As part of its role as a long-term owner, Nordstjernan aims to sell its companies when more value can be created through other ownership constellations. Divestments also free up capital for new investments.

The latest major addition to Nordstjernan’s listed holdings is the care company Attendo. In conjunction with the company’s stock market listing in late 2015, Nordstjernan became one of its largest owners. Nordstjernan’s largest listed holding, NCC, was converted into two listed companies following the spin-off and listing of the Housing business area under the name Bonava in June 2016. Nordstjernan also carried out a number of minor investments during the period 2012-2016, including in Llentab, Bygghemma, Swedol, PMC Group/Dacke Industri and PriceRunner. In late 2016, Bygghemma was divested.

In recent years, Nordstjernan’s management team has been expanded to include Marion Bernhardsson and Carl Engström. At the 2016 Annual General Meeting, Antonia Ax:son Johnson stepped down from Nordstjernan’s Board of Directors after 34 years and was succeeded by her daughter Caroline Berg (born in 1968).

During 2017, Nordstjernan split its largest unlisted holding Rosti Group, a global manufacturer of plastic components, into two companies – Rosti and Rosti Automotive. At the end of the year, Nordstjernan acquired a majority of the shares in Lideta, which engages in primary care via some 15 units, and signed an agreement to acquire Mama Mia, which provides maternity and child health care services.

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