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«Basel is a fabulous city with an excellent infrastructure»

Five years ago, Axalta, a global leader in the coatings industry, made the decision to establish its European headquarters in Basel. BaselArea.swiss supported the company’s settlement from the start. In his interview with Economic Development of the Canton of Basel-Stadt, Yves Kerstens, Axalta’s Vice President and President EMEA region, explains what makes the innovative power of Axalta and what he thinks about Basel as a business location.

yveskerstens
Yves Kerstens, Vice President of Axalta Coating Systems and President of the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Image Credit: Axalta

Axalta is a global leader in the industry. For those of us not familiar with coatings, could you tell us what makes Axalta’s coatings unique?

Yves Kerstens: Axalta is a leading global company focused on Transportation Coatings for Light Vehicle OEMs and Commercial Vehicles and Performance Coatings for both Refinish and Aftermarket Applications and for Industrial Applications. We have provided customers with innovative, colourful, beautiful and sustainable solutions for over 150 years. Our coatings are used on everything from cosmetic compacts, alternators and sports helmets, to guitars, race cars, rollercoasters, playgrounds and skyscrapers. Every day, we are committed to providing our customers with exceptional, high-quality products. Our ability to innovate relies on decades of experience with polymer and resin formulation capabilities and a deep understanding of pigments and colour. Our manufacturing processes, application techniques and products are created with responsible sustainability in mind.

Why did you decide to set up the European headquarters in Basel five years ago?

Our Axalta Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) headquarters was established in Basel due to Axalta’s wish to have an EMEA headquarters in a central location, which truly reflects the regional and international composition of the company. The Basel area itself has easy access to two international airports – EuroAirport in Basel and Zurich International Airport – that provide a gateway to the entire EMEA region and beyond. By having Axalta’s EMEA leadership team, who set our region’s strategic direction, in one location, we can leverage synergies and focus fully on driving growth in our markets.
 
What are the main challenges and opportunities for your business right now?

In 2018, Axalta’s Performance Coatings segment accounted for 65% of the company’s turnover, of which 38% was from refinish sales and 27% from industrial coatings sales. The remaining 35% was represented by our Transportation Coatings segment, including both OEM light vehicles and commercial vehicles. For 2019, we remain cautiously optimistic regarding key end-market drivers, with broad stability and supportive conditions in the Performance Coatings segment globally, but flatter global demand in the Transportation Coatings segment.

We target ongoing market outgrowth through product innovation and strong execution, and we are highly-focused on continuing to differentiate Axalta through speed, agility and customer focus. In support of our business goals, we made significant investments in our facilities around the world. In China, we recently opened new regional offices and expanded our Refinish Training Centre in Chengdu. In the U.S. we opened our new 16,000 m2 Global Innovation Centre at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. In Wuppertal, Germany, in 2015 we commissioned a new waterborne production facility, and in 2016 opened our newly expanded European Technology Center. We recently modernised and expanded our powder capabilities in Montbrison, France, and in Landshut, Germany. In 2019, we signed an agreement to develop a new, state-of-the-art facility for our Dutch refinish business in Tiel, the Netherlands, and following the opening of our new refinish South African central office in Midrand in 2018, on 10 July 2019, we opened our Training Centre there. These are all good examples of how Axalta continues to invest for even more success and global growth.
 
Last question: What do you like most about Basel as a business location?

Basel is a fabulous city with an excellent infrastructure. Without a doubt, Basel’s thriving and vibrant international community coupled with its strong business backbone, are motivating factors that have helped us to attract some of the best people.

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