Established in 1970, Boulter Boilers Limited will be a name familiar throughout the UK oil heating industry.
Earlier this year, Boulter was acquired by Buderus Heitztechnic, a member of the Buderus Group. Buderus will be name with which many UK installers will be unfamiliar, but with operations stretching throughout Europe and an annual turnover of c.€1,860 million and c.10,000 employees, it is truly an industry giant.
The rationale behind the Boulter acquisition appeared therefore to be twofold. Firstly, it enabled Buderus’ condensing technology to be integrated into Boulter’s oil boiler range ahead of the new industry regulations which it is envisaged will take effect in 2005. And secondly, it provided a UK distribution channel for Buderus’ gas boilers, which the company claims are the European market leaders, but are virtually unknown in the United Kingdom.
Following the acquisition by Buderus, Chris Yates, Boulter Buderus’ Managing Director, provided a public assurance on the company’s website, that Boulter’s oil boiler operations would remain largely unchanged. However, for the first time a separate salesforce would be established within the business to market and to sell Buderus’ extensive range of gas fired boilers, supported by a nationwide network of directly employed service engineers.
But just as Boulter’s UK operations were being integrated into Buderus, Robert Bosch GmbH was in the process of acquiring Buderus itself. Bosch is a name familiar name to those inside and outside the oil heating sector. Perhaps best known as a car components manufacturer, Bosch’s product portfolio has however broadened considerably over recent years, in an attempt to better balance the business and reduce dependency upon its automotive operations.
Central to broadening and balancing the business, has been the development of Bosch’s Consumer Goods and Building Technology business, of which Thermotechnology is an integral part. With the Buderus acquisition, Bosch’s Consumer Goods and Building Technology business’ have increased their share from 22% to 26% of total Bosch sales.
Whatever the impact upon Bosch’s sales, a key priority for the UK’s oil heating sectors has been determining just what the acquisition means for them… given that Bosch is the parent company of Worcester Bosch, one of Boulter Buderus’ principal competitors. Bosch claims that the respective product portfolios of Buderus and Bosch are a ‘good fit’, with Bosch focusing upon wall-mounted gas boilers and water heaters, whilst Buderus focuses upon floor standing gas and oil boilers. The company is also confident that access to Bosch’s distribution network in Asia and the Americas, should provide Buderus’ British operations with additional production volume. Therefore, customers should see little change, with Boulter Buderus and Worcester Bosch set to retain their separate identities, separate production facilities and separate management teams. This arrangement is entirely consistent with a pledge by Bosch to retain Buderus’ existing management structure.
Writing on the Boulter Buderus’ website, Managing Director, Chris Yates said ‘We are extremely excited by the prospects presented by the Bosch acquisition, which builds on the business improvements made by Buderus to our business. We believe that our customers will see significant benefits as a result.’
The importance of the UK businesses to Bosch’s Thermotechnology operations has been recognised by the company in a recent statement. During 2002, the UK accounted for over 20% of Bosch’s thermotechnology sales and was the single largest national market for the business, followed by Germany, France and Spain. Indeed, Bosch acknowledges that the importance of the market to its business is likely to increase, stating that the UK offers the best long term growth potential of any EU market.