A growing number of Polish companies are setting up shop in Germany, defying the stereotype of Poland as a land of subcontractors and cheap labor force for its western neighbor. Quite a few German businesses have Polish owners these days, and Polish entrepreneurs increasingly secure deals to carry out innovative projects in that country. One recent example is a Polish firm selected to help design an artificial intelligence system for automaker BMW.
Germany has for years been Poland’s main economic partner and the chief market for Polish companies with foreign expansion plans. A total of 1,700 Polish-owned businesses are active in Germany. Many started out by seeking out partners in that country and subsequently developed distribution networks. Several years ago, Polish businesses started taking over their German counterparts.
Two years ago, Poland’s Nowy Styl group paid 70 million euros to acquire Germany’s Rohde&Grahl, a leading furniture producer in Europe. Prior to that, Nowy Styl took over German seating manufacturer Sato Office. Earlier this year, Polish chip board manufacturer Grajewo swallowed its German parent company Pfleiderer, and physiotherapy equipment manufacturer Medort purchased German rival Richter Reha Technik GmbH. Poland’s Comarch, Asseco and Orlen corporations have also bought businesses in Germany.
The Agat company from the central Polish town of Koluszki made headlines last year when it won a tender to build a train wash system for Germany’s national rail operator SBahn. The 4.5-million-euro deal gave a substantial boost to Agat’s business in Germany and encouraged the Polish company to set up a subsidiary in that country. Agat has been active in Germany for some time now, but previously it limited itself to sending employees to handle business projects there.
“Now, with our own company registered in Germany, we will find it easier to seek new contracts on the local market and expand further into Europe,” said Agat CEO Zbigniew Winkiel. He added that Agat offered an automated train wash system “while most trains in Germany are still cleaned with a mop and a bucket” of water.
As they expand into Germany, some Polish companies seek to acquire local family businesses, especially those without successors, according to Igor Stenzel, a lawyer with law firm CMS. This particularly applies to businesses established in eastern Germany after the country’s reunification in 1990, he says. Other Polish businessmen target bankrupt German companies, and still others simply establish subsidiaries in that country, Stenzel adds.
Agata Kołodziej / Money.pl