It became clear in 2002: Lumino, an SME from Krefeld, had to look for a new production site. The facilities in the heart of the city had become too small for the company, which has been producing stationary passenger information systems for public transport with increasing success. More space was needed for the production of the display panels we all know from any bus, underground or tram stop. But financing a new location proved more difficult than expected. How fortunate that the private equity firm S-UBG Aachen had written a letter to Karl Heinz Ronkholz, the founder of Lumino, two years earlier and offered to provide equity capital.
New facilities and a better company structure
Karl Heinz Ronkholz contacted S-UBG, a meeting was arranged and the possibility of a partnership was discussed. Harald Heidemann, member of the S-UBG executive board, remembers it well: ‘Lumino is a very interesting company with distinctive opportunities for growth. We were very pleased to ultimately make a 20% investment in Lumino.’ Finance for the move was in place, a new building was constructed in Europapark Fichtenhain near Krefeld, and soon the 80 employees moved in. But Lumino gained more than just capital for the move from the private equity firm. ‘When S-UBG came on board, our company also benefited from a lot of know-how,’ says Karl Heinz Ronkholz. ‘We implemented a controlling process and optimised our entire cost structure. We were able to reduce our insurance costs by 25%, for instance, just by analysing and consolidating our policies. Such an investment is pure business development!’ Harald Heidemann adds: ‘We work according to strict profitability criteria. The investment has to pay off for all the shareholders.’ Beate Federsel, senior investment manager at S-UBG Aachen, has been in regular contact with Lumino company management since the investment in the company.
Expansion in Europe and beyond
The private equity firm is also supporting Lumino in developing new markets abroad. International projects were realised in Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Russia, Colombia and other countries over the last few years. Contacts are now being established in the Middle East. Public transport and the corresponding infrastructure are increasingly gaining importance in this region.
S-UBG Aachen is a partner of many companies in the Aachen, Krefeld and Mönchengladbach economic region. The company invests in regional SMEs with three different funds, focusing on rapidly growing high-tech companies and technology start-ups. All 33 companies in the portfolio generated sales totalling around EUR 320 million with approximately 3,100 employees in 2009. Member of the Deutscher Bundestag Bernd Scheelen, SPD, Finance Committee member, obtained an impression of the successful partnership between Lumino and the private equity firm during a visit at Lumino. He was impressed: ‘Lumino in Krefeld is an example of how private equity investments support SMEs in particular. Private Equity helps entrepreneurs with promising ideas, allowing them to realise their concepts successfully.’