June 23, 2016 will probably go down in the history books. On that day a narrow majority of Britons voted in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Since then there has been uncertainty about the possible ramifications of the referendum – among the public, in politics and commerce.
STIHL is a global player: In 2015, the company achieved a record turnover of 3.25 billion euros with its workforce of about 15,000. STIHL products are sold throughout the world – by 36 marketing and sales subsidiaries, some 120 importers and more than 45,000 specialist servicing dealers.
What consequences does Brexit have for a global player like STIHL?
We asked Norbert Pick, STIHL executive board member responsible for marketing and sales.
Mr Pick, STIHL sells its products in more than 160 countries. How important are open borders for the company?
Pick: Open borders in Europe have an intrinsic significance for the business activities of the STIHL Group. Our business is traditionally export oriented. We have for decades achieved around 90 percent of our worldwide sales in other countries, the EU single market accounting for almost 40 percent of the total. The EU generates 60 percent of our German founding company’s almost one billion euro turnover. Closing borders or restrictions to the cornerstones or “four freedoms” of the European single market – they are the free movement of goods, services, labor and capital – would have serious consequences for us.
What are the consequences the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union would have for international trade and for STIHL?
Pick: It is still not clear at the moment when the UK’s exit from the EU will take place, what the conditions will be and what consequences that will have. A number of different exit scenarios are being discussed. One thing they all have in common is the fact that they are far worse than a membership of the United Kingdom in the EU. For a start there is a threat of trade barriers for business and direct investments and thus more bureaucracy, higher costs and generally less favorable conditions for free enterprise. Apart from that, there is a danger of a persistently weaker pound, which could force STIHL to increase prices.
Considering the negative outcome of a possible Brexit: Will STIHL pull out of the British market?
Pick: The United Kingdom is one of our ten top markets worldwide in terms of turnover and is very important for the STIHL Group. Therefore, it must be clearly stated that we will not reduce our market presence in the UK, even after Brexit. We will not scale down our investments, but rather increase our efforts there. STIHL is committed to the British market.