German industrialist US$5.7b richer after record IPO

GERMANY'S largest-ever listing of a family-owned business has reordered the country's wealth rankings.

Heinz Hermann Thiele is US$5.7 billion richer following last week's initial public offering of his largest asset, Knorr-Bremse AG, the world's biggest maker of truck and train braking systems. The IPO makes him the country's fourth-richest person, with a net worth of US$15 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Mr Thiele, 77, was ranked 10th before the IPO, when Bloomberg valued his stake at US$8.4 billion. His rise in the ranking now puts him ahead of shipping billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne and SAP SE co-founder Hasso Platner. He remains US$9.4 billion behind Germany's richest person - Lidl Stiftung & Co's Dieter Schwarz.

Knorr-Bremse was founded in 1905, and Mr Thiele started there in 1969 as a legal specialist in the patents department. He rose through the ranks before buying the company in 1985. At that point he hadn't even repaid the mortgage on his house, he said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Under Mr Thiele, Knorr-Bremse has expanded its global presence to more than 30 countries and posted 2017 sales of 6.2 billion euros (S$9.9 billion). Shares of the company rose 1.6 per cent to close at 81.24 euros on Friday, its first day of trading.

Mr Thiele, who plans to hand over the business to his daughter, said in the interview that estate planning factored into his decision to list the company. The IPO comes two years after a reform to Germany's inheritance tax law that increases the burden on single heirs of large family companies. BLOOMBERG

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