Founded by George Westinghouse as Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation, the origins of Wabtec Corporation date back to 1869. In its current form, Wabtec Corpo-ration has been in existence since 1999. Although Wabtec is rather unknown in the Euro-pean rail market apart from Faiveley Transport, the group has recently become one of the top ten rail system companies and achieved a turnover of around 7.8 billion dollars in the financial year 2021.
At the end of the 19th century, George Westinghouse developed the air brake. The com-pany he founded, Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corporation, was to produce and market his invention. In 1999, the company merged with MotivePower Industries and was renamed Wabtec Corporation. Today, the North American corporation is a global manu-facturer of air brakes, train control systems, locomotives and components for rail vehicles, as well as a provider of locomotive maintenance, repair and refurbishment services. The company’s main sales market is North America, followed by Europe.
FROM HIDDEN CHAMPION TO GLOBAL PLAYER
After the merger with MotivePower Industries, the group strengthened its market position through a series of strategic acquisitions of companies active in the railway sector: In 2006, Wabtec acquired Becorit, a German brake pad and brake lining manufacturer; in 2010, it acquired Bach-Simpson, an American railway electronics manufacturer; followed by the acquisition of Brush Traction, a British locomotive manufacturer, in 2011; in 2012, it acquired relay manufacturer Mors Smitt; in 2014, it acquired Fandstan Electric; and in 2015, it acquired Faiveley Transport, a French railway systems supplier, and Trackside In-telligence, an Australian company. With the acquisition of GE Transportation in 2019, Wab-tec finally secured its place among the world’s leading railway systems houses. The latest corporate additions are Nordco, a North American provider of track maintenance equip-ment, and the Railway Friction business of India’s MASU. In addition, Wabtec recently an-nounced the acquisition of Trimble’s Beena Vision business, further expanding its market position in digital rail inspection.
Wabtec has more than tripled its turnover within the last few years. This development is mainly due to the above-mentioned systematic company expansions.
The company’s strong position is also reflected in the group’s order situation. The order book at the end of the 2021 financial year was significantly increased compared to the previous year. Orders with a volume of around 6.2 billion dollars are expected to be com-pleted from the order backlog in 2022.
Although the global impact of the Covid 19 pandemic was still significant in 2021 and sup-ply chains were partially impacted, revenue and profit increased year-on-year. It is also worth noting that Wabtec generated record cash flow from operations of $1.07 billion in 2021.
Wabtec’s strengths currently lie in its high order backlog and leading market position in North America and increasing sales in Europe, especially in Germany. The Group’s broad product portfolio and strategic acquisitions in recent years further consolidate the com-pany’s position in the global rail market. However, the company’s strong market position-ing is weakened by its dependence on a few customers and a reduced profit margin due to inflation, among other factors. Risks are posed above all by rising energy and material costs. Until Russia’s war of aggression and the resulting sanctions, the country was still treated as a coming growth market. A further escalation will jeopardise the Group’s Rus-sian business, whose turnover has risen steadily in recent years. Opportunities generally exist in the increased capacity requirements of rail infrastructures across all country bor-ders. The resulting needs of the respective rail markets are met by Wabtec’s product port-folio. The recently completed or announced acquisitions will further expand the compa-ny’s business activities and offer corresponding growth opportunities. In addition, the dig-italisation of the rail market and Amtrak’s announcement to invest more in the North American rail network.
To meet the Paris Climate Agreement, there must be a drastic shift of traffic to rail. With the increasing demand in rail transport, Wabtec will experience long-term growth. With the right focus, business strategies and increased innovation, the Group will further strengthen its market position and competitiveness.