The company was aware in 2020 that nitrile gloves were a necessary, and completely volatile, commodity — and a market that the foundationally stable Semperit wanted to vacate.
But the company stuck with Sempermed, which also produces surgical gloves, as the market fluctuated wildly through the pandemic.
That was until last year, when a precipitous decline in Sempermed's sales — about 50 percent year over year — led the group to divest the segment.
Fast forward one year, and the $1 billion Semperit Group has tacked almost completely toward industrial rubber products with its Semperflex, Sempertrans, Semperseal and Semperform divisions.
The overall segment registered $698 million in net sales in 2022, a 32 percent increase over 2021's $528.9 million in net sales.
EBITDA for the industrial sector in 2022 jumped nearly 53 percent, coming in at $119.1 million against $78.1 million in 2021.
The main product groups in the industrial sector are hydraulic and industrial hoses, conveyor belts, escalator handrails, window and door profiles, cable car rings, ski foils and products for railway superstructures.
"The goal is to serve existing and future markets faster, more effectively and more efficiently," Haider said. "In addition, the systematic continuous improvement across all areas of the company is intended to further improve the Semperit Group's competitive position and sustainability."
Some of those green fixes are coming in Odry in the Czech Republic, where Semperit is investing "three-digit millions of dollars" in the world's first CO2-neutral hose production facility.
"We are on a journey, and there is an environmental side to this journey," Brok said. "LSR has upsides and downsides in this regard, but in transition with this material is where we can assist ... not so much up front."
And as Semperit kept its ear to the M&A rail, ultimately it was the fellow Austrian firm Rico Group GmbH that came calling.
"They were established and had reached the size and age where they said this is about time to sell," Brok said. "This was something that had been planned as far as five years back. They fit in to more of a corporate structure, which ours is.
"We are not an LSR specialist. We want to expand our offerings into other areas — like high-end LSR tooling and niche markets. We are expanding our elastomer competence through new material know-how in liquid silicone, and we will strengthen our market access and presence across North America."