1945

Oras Ltd established

1999

Oras Ltd becomes
largest owner of Uponor

2004

Oras Invest Ltd
established

2007

Oras Invest Ltd becomes
largest owner of Kemira

2010

Oras Invest Ltd becomes
largest owner of Tikkurila

2013

Oras Ltd to acquire
Hansa

Our story 70 years

The pioneer entrepreneur

Our family business was founded in 1945 in the small town of Rauma, on the west coast of Finland. The founders – Erkki and Irja Paasikivi and Kosti Oras – set up a small metal workshop in Irja’s father’s basement, right after the end of the Second World War. The company was named after Irja’s father, who helped out by financing the initial stages. Because Kosti Oras had operated cars and buses in Rauma since 1920s, the workshop began repairing and making spare parts for buses. However, thanks to Erkki Paasikivi’s engineering ambitions, the company started to create a variety of pieces of equipment from supplies that became available, and the focus shifted from buses to other products.

The first step in the production of water fittings was taken in 1947 when Erkki managed to acquire a batch of anti-aircraft grenade shells. They were processed into radiator pipe connectors which were sold to plumbing businesses.

In 1951 Oras began to produce faucets. There was great demand in Finland for fittings and faucets, and sales were so good that the company could concentrate on them. At first Oras ordered the tap bodies from a subcontractor, but because the quality was not always up to requirements, it was decided that Oras would establish its own foundry. The best available technology was developed by West German company Piel & Adey, so Erkki contacted them. The licensing agreement was signed in March 1955. In the same year, Oras received its first export order.

At the start of the 1960s, Oras was developing faster than ever. Two-handle faucets had become Oras’ most important product and were selling very well. At first, exports were modest and primarily aimed at the Nordic countries. In 1967 the company took part in its first international HVAC fair, the ISH in Frankfurt. Erkki Paasikivi and the Oras executive team believed that the company should increase its exports so that larger series could be produced at lower unit costs. The new factory, Isometsä, was inaugurated in May 1970.

The 1970s was a challenging decade for many Finnish companies. Oras made its first ever loss in 1975, but recovered from the recession faster than its competitors, largely as a result of the single-lever Safira faucet, which was popular in Finland. The Safira also accounted for half of all Oras exports. In 1979, Erkki Paasikivi decided that it was time for his sons Pekka, Jukka and Jari to take over the family business.

Growth, internationalization
and acquisitions

Oras saw that there were no prospects for a significant rise in demand in the domestic market; therefore, the company needed to expand abroad. Together with management, the owners developed a clear strategy for the company. Innovative products, steady revenue growth, and expansion into new markets ensured profitability and provided a solid platform for strategic acquisitions. Following the company’s strategy, Oras acquired German company Goswin & Co. GmbH in 1982, Finnish competitor Osy in 1983, and Norwegian Lyng Armatur in 1984.

During the 1980s, Oras expanded to become an international faucet manufacturer operating in six countries. It also exported products to other countries in Europe and beyond.

By the turn of the 1990s, foreign operations already accounted for more than half of net sales. With its strong finances, Oras had good prospects for the coming decade.

The recession hit Finland hard in the first half of the 1990s. Oras was dependent on the building industry, which was the biggest loser in the recession. Domestic net sales declined but sales in Germany and Norway made up for the shortfall. After a couple of fairly subdued years, a new period of growth got underway in the beginning of the 1990s.

In 1993 both sales and profitability improved more than expected. Buoyed by its strong finances, the company was able to plan further growth through acquisitions. The prospects were good because it had the cash reserves as well as its own new technology product, the electronic faucet.

In 1995, Oras announced an ambitious growth strategy, “Vision 2005”. The company intended to conquer the European markets and triple its revenue. Steps in that direction were taken based on advances in R&D, as Oras became the first European faucet manufacturer to introduce an electronic faucet. The company’s name and trademark had developed into a widely recognized and valued brand, associated with durability, innovation and attractive design. In 1996 Oras acquired a faucet factory in Olesno, Poland. However, Vision 2005 proved too complex to implement and the owners stepped back and took a broader look at the industry. At the same time, Fortum Oyj, the newly established energy giant, was seeking a new Finnish owner for its plastic pipe business Uponor.

Industrial owner

Oras became the largest owner of Uponor in 1999, heralding the start of a new era of industrial ownership. Pekka Paasikivi became Chairman of the Board of Uponor, introducing business idea-based thinking and a single-brand strategy. Theowner’s approach was active and its commitment clearly visible. Uponor’s shares had been purchased at a favorable time and the share price consistently gained value, with the steadily growing dividend stream peaking in 2006. At this time, the owners of Oras decided to organize the two industrial companies under a single holding unit.

Oras Invest Ltd was established to manage the family’s assets. From the outset, Oras Invest had a clear strategy: to become the largest owner of its publicly listed companies and a majority owner of its privately owned companies, based on long-term commitment. At this point, the third generation of the family became active through board memberships.

By 2007, Oras Invest had become a household name in the HVAC and building material industries. The owners were ready to expand into a new industry. Following a comprehensive investigation, Kemira was identified as an interesting investment opportunity. Its involvement in global water chemistry and its subsidiary Tikkurila were among the decisive factors. Kemira’s main owner at the time, the Finnish state, was prepared to reduce its ownership sufficiently, allowing Oras Invest to become the largest owner. Oras Invest saw a consolidation opportunity in Kemira and purchased the shares offered by the state. Operating in the water industry and making one-quarter of its revenue in the building industry made Kemira a strategic fit with Oras Invest’s industrial portfolio. Soon after becoming Kemira’s largest owner, Oras Invest, in accordance with the original plan, added a fourth arm to its portfolio when Tikkurila was spun off by Kemira, to form an independent publicly listed company.

In 2013, the new Oras Group was created when Oras acquired Hansa. This acquisition doubled the size of the company in terms of revenue and personnel. Today, Oras Invest continues to be an active and committed long-term owner of Oras Group, Uponor, Kemira and Tikkurila. Each step in our 70-year history has contributed to our know-how and expertise, allowing us to take on new challenges. We have been able to take the long view and grow steadily into a significant contributor of value to society. Throughout its entire history, Oras Invest has remained under 100% family ownership.

Read more:
Herranen, Timo (2015)
Family business, faucet company, industrial owner

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