ZF chief financial officer Konstantin Sauer has been named CFO of the Year 2018 by Finance magazine with judges citing a “cleverly financed takeover” of TRW Automotive in 2015 as “a decisive factor” for the award.

The magazine also noted a “debt load totaling EUR12bn which resulted from the acquisition” had since been reduced by EUR7bn. 

Finance, published by FAZ, presented the award to Sauer during the Structured Finance trade show in Stuttgart, Germany.

The magazine jury based its award decision on Sauer’s handling of the takeover – completely externally financed – of the American automotive supplier TRW Automotive in spring 2015.

“ZF’s acquisition of TRW and its opening up to the capital market were milestones in the over 100 year history of the company,” said Finance editors-in-chief Michael Hedtstueck and Markus Dentz, explaining why they chose Sauer.

“The company courageously grabbed its growth opportunities by the horns – and Sauer financially secured its chosen course in an impressive manner. In the process, he acted as the best chief financial officers should, one who works in the background, but nevertheless decisively shapes the development of his company.”

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Sauer is an industrial engineer with a PhD in business management. When Sauer was named CFO in 2010, ZF posted EUR13bn in sales that year, today it is over EUR36bin. At that time, the company was faced with the challenge of adapting its product portfolio to the future demands of the automotive industry. An essential milestone in the process was the acquisition of TRW Automotive in May 2015. This purchase cost EUR12.4bn and was completely financed by external investors. The transaction also put ZF in a leading position in the development of automated driving functions and led the company into the ranks of the largest automotive suppliers in the world.

Finance said that, as CFO, Sauer prepared the financial foundation for this growth and technological advance. The debt burden of EUR12bn ZF accumulated after the takeover was reduced by EUR7bn in less than four years. Ratings agencies have also acknowledged this achievement: Since this spring, they have again given the supplier a credit rating of investment grade. During the course of the TRW acquisition, ZF opened itself up to the capital market. Under Sauer’s management, the company issued several bonds and a bonded loan of over EUR2.2bn – the largest volume issued to date.

In addition to being CFO, Sauer also became the company’s temporary CEO from the end of 2017 into 2018 when the existing CEO and chairman of the supervisory board left. Last February, Henning Scheider became CEO.

“I am delighted to receive this award. It recognises the ongoing efforts of the entire team in the financial division to successfully prepare ZF for the future of mobility. In doing so, we have succeeded in consistently pursuing our strategy, which has involved major investments, mainly in electromobility and autonomous driving, and simultaneously secure [our] financial independence,”said Sauer.