Limburgers buy Italian tractor maker to challenge John Deere
Keestrack, specialized in large crushing machines for asphalt and concrete, buys the Italian tractor builder Goldoni, who ran into difficulties after a Chinese takeover. The family business Keestrack with 820 employees competes with John Deere and co.
Along the Taunusweg in Bilzen, the flags of Keestrack fly next to some gigantic bright yellow 15-meter-long and 69-tonne crushing machines. There is nothing to suggest that just behind it is the headquarters of a small multinational in machinery for road, mining and recycling. The name refers to the founder who was born in the Netherlands. But for the rest, Keestrack is a Belgian story headed by a Limburg family: father, mother and two sons in management. Customers from the Middle East to Australia. Only the production does not take place in Belgium; but in the Czech Republic, Italy, China and India.
An Italian factory was added, because Keestrack received permission from the Italian bankruptcy court to take over Goldoni. Not a manufacturer of heavy yard machines this time, but an iconic manufacturer of small tractors that can often be found in Italian vineyards and also sold to farmers in France and Spain.
After succession problems in the third generation, Goldoni came into the hands of the Chinese group Lovol five years ago. ‘He was mainly interested in the know-how, developed products for the Chinese market and neglected the European market. The company has been in a legal agreement for a year now, ‘says Peter Hoogendoorn, the eldest son of Keestrack founder Kees Hoogendoorn. ‘The brand has built a name for itself among Italian horticulturists for 80 years. We want to keep it and expand it to other countries. ‘
Family business from Bilzen, founded by Kees Hoogendoorn and Annet Schoenmaker.
Sell sieving and crushing machines for construction sites and mining.
Production in the Czech Republic, Italy, China and India.
Employees: 820, of whom 30 in Belgium and 500 in the Czech Republic.
He knows the Italian market well. He moved to nearby Treviso ten years ago when Keestrack bought a bankrupt crusher factory there. In a decade, turnover increased from 3 to 32 million euros. Last year, a profit was closed with 1.5 million euros. Not an easy task in Italy, ‘says Kees Hoogendoorn proudly.
He is counting on a similar restructuring story with Goldoni. Keestrack was the only bidder and was thus able to pay a little less than the initial minimum price for the auction (9.5 million euros). 110 of the 179 workers are taken over. To realize the turnaround, Hoogendoorn is counting on synergies with the existing Italian factory.
The supply chain must also change. Goldoni got its parts within a radius of 25 kilometers from the factory. Then you cannot be competitive. Today you need a global supply chain, ‘says Hoogendoorn. Keestrack has a presence in China for parts and produces for the markets in Southeast Asia, Russia and Latin America. It is remarkable that this factory is fully owned by the Belgian group, while most companies have to work there as a joint venture. ‘You can negotiate anything and we have introduced new technology that they want.’
Small tractors look very different from the big construction machines. ‘Not at all,’ says son Frederik, who mainly takes care of the commercial side. ‘We have been selling smaller machines that farmers use for some time. Synergies are also possible in our service network. Anyone who can tinker with a tractor can also tinker with a sieving machine. ‘
Founder Kees is the best proof of that. The farmer’s son worked on tractors at the age of sixteen and started buying and selling tractors as a ‘young entrepreneur’. At the age of 25, he moved to Belgium with his wife and it became a major machinery trade. ‘He the technology, she guards the money’, the sons say.
When the manufacturers did nothing with the ideas to improve the machines, the couple decided to build them themselves. The first product: a classic soil sieve to separate soil and stones during construction works, but on caterpillar tracks and with a direct feed to increase mobility.
The product quickly caught on in Belgium and neighboring countries. Due to internationalization and additional products, turnover has grown by 15 percent per year over the past decade. 25 years after its foundation, Keestrack has a consolidated turnover of 125 million euros. The Italian takeover will be a big leap. Goldoni achieved a turnover of 50 million euros in 2018. We think we can get there again in one to two years, ‘says father Hoogendoorn.
High wage costs
Belgium was never an option for production due to its high wage costs. The Hoogendoorn family first settled in Romania and Slovakia and eventually moved in 2001 to a former communist steel construction factory in the Czech Republic. It has 500 employees and is still being expanded. “In the distant future, we may also have to start something in Latin America,” says Hoogendoorn.
John Deere has competed with us in screening and crushing machines. We want to develop a range of tractors against him.
With Goldoni there is the ambition to build larger tractors, genre Fendt or John Deere. “With the acquisition of the German group Wirtgen, John Deere has put us in competition with screening and crushing machines. We therefore want to develop a range against John Deere over the next ten years, ‘says Hoogendoorn.