SMT Scharf hovers over Mühlhäuser assets 15 Aug 2019

Jonathan Rowland, TunnelTalk

SMT Scharf may acquire significant assets from subsidiaries of troubled Swiss company, Mühlhäuser GmbH. Under consideration are Karl H Mühlhäuser GmbH & Co KG and Mühlhäuser-Obermann GmbH. Both subsidiaries are based in Germany and began insolvency proceedings in June 2019. The acquisition is dependent on the results of the insolvency proceedings and would see SMT Scharf extend its portfolio within the tunnelling industry.

SMT Scharf-Mühlhäuser partnership since 2016
SMT Scharf-Mühlhäuser partnership since 2016

There has been a co-operation agreement between SMT Scharf and Mühlhäuser since 2016, making SMT Scharf a logical buyer. The agreement covered a logistics solution, developed by the two companies and based on the SMT monorail system. Under the deal, SMT Scharf supplies the major elements of the transport equipment, while Mühlhäuser advises customers, designs tunnel-specific solutions, and manages sales and service.

With a history going back more than a century, Mühlhäuser is one of the most recognisable brands in the industry. The product portfolio of the company ranges from tracked and trackless logistics equipment for haulage, supply and service, through to shotcrete machines and TBMs, following the take-over of NFM in February 2019. It is not clear which assets are under consideration by SMT Scharf and the company declined to comment for this article.

French TBM manufacturer, NFM, went into receivership in August 2018, after suffering financial difficulties following the bankruptcy of its principal shareholder, NHI Heavy Industries of China. NFM and Mühlhäuser had a business collaboration since 2015, making Mühlhäuser a logical buyer. Mühlhäuser did not reply to requests for comment.

NFM TBM on Thomson metro, Singapore
NFM TBM on Thomson metro, Singapore

NFM TBMs are in use at several major projects around the world, including the Thames Tideway sewer project in London, the Semmering rail tunnel in Austria, the Saint-Martin-La-Porte access tunnel for the Lyon-Turin rail link, and the Thompson metro line in Singapore. TunnelTalk approached these projects about the current difficulties at Mühlhäuser. Thames Tideway said that they did not comment on the finances of suppliers but that they are happy with the service provided and that the two NFM TBMs are making good progress, having advanced 3.5km westbound and 1.3km eastbound, both from the Battersea staging area. A spokesperson for Implenia, part of the the ATF joint venture with Swietelsky on Lot 2.1 of the Semmering Base Tunnel told TunnelTalk that "the services for the machines in operation are guaranteed" and that "the joint venture is closely monitoring the situation and is in contact with the machine supplier".

Mühlhäuser subsidiary, Mühlhäuser-Obermann GmbH, was formed when the German company took over grouting technology specialist, Obermann, in 2014, in what was the first acquisition in the company’s history. “We are becoming a full-range logistics supplier for tunnelling construction and mines,” said Markus Rechner, Mühlhäuser CEO, at the time. That vision may now pass to SMT Scharf.


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