The group of companies run by Stefan Messer celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2018. The company was founded by Adolf Messer in 1898. At that time, he employed four blue-collar workers and one salaried employee at his workshop for the fabrication of acetylene gas generators in Frankfurt-Höchst. Today, Messer is a group of companies with some 14,000 employees worldwide.
Marcel Messer, Stefan Messer’s son, began his Messer career on 1 May 2018. He has been working in the role of Adviser to the Management at Messer Group since 1 March 2019. Marcel Messer previously spent three years in the finance industry working for the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock in London. Alongside his brother-in-law Cédric Casamayou, Marcel Messer is thus the second member of the fourth generation of the Messer family to have joined the company. Cédric Casamayou has a master’s in management and finance from the Grenoble Business School and is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). He is currently in charge of Messer’s “Family Office” and holds the position of Group Controller in the Corporate Office at Messer Group in Bad Soden.
Marcel Messer has a master’s in finance from the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management. Whilst studying for his master’s degree, he also worked part-time at KPMG. He did his bachelor’s degree in international business in London, with a year abroad in Paris and several internships at various industrial companies, the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bayerische Hypo- und Vereinsbank, JP Morgan in Hong Kong as well as Messer in China and Switzerland. Since 2014, he has also been a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) and thus qualified to manage portfolios and alternative investments.
In 1898, Adolf Messer started production of acetylene lighting installations and acetylene gas generators. When electric lighting and incandescent gas lighting replaced acetylene lighting at the start of the 20th century, he concentrated exclusively on the production of equipment for oxy-fuel welding and cutting. Besides oxy-fuel technology, air separation units became the second pillar: Adolf Messer put his first air separation unit into operation himself in Madrid in 1910. Under Hans Messer, the founder’s son, Adolf Messer GmbH merged with parts of Knapsack-Griesheim AG to form Messer Griesheim GmbH in 1965. In the years following the merger, the company grew in Europe and North America. In 1993, Hans Messer took a step back from running the business and handed the reins over to a manager from outside the family. After a risky expansion course and the near-collapse of the company, the founder’s grandson, Stefan Messer, was eventually appointed CEO in 1998. Together with financial investors, he put the company back on its feet over a period of three years before restoring its status as a family-owned business in 2004. This marked the birth of today’s Messer Group GmbH.
Stefan Messer and his staff work as a team in line with defined values and growth strategies which they mutually work out and define.
At Messer, there is wide-ranging commitment on the part of owner and CEO Stefan Messer, the executives and employees alike. This makes it possible to widen the scope for action and exchange market-related experience via networks and cooperative initiatives.
The owner’s personal commitment
As Vice President and member of the General Assembly of the Frankfurt am Main Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK), Stefan Messer holds the office of Chairman of the foreign trade committee there. Furthermore, he is an Honorary Senator of the Technical University Darmstadt and Honorary Senator of the Goethe University Frankfurt, as well as a member of the board of trustees of the Faculty of Economics and the board of trustees of the China Institute at the Goethe University Frankfurt. In addition, he is a member of the board of the German-Swiss Chamber of Commerce, a member of the advisory committee for the FrankfurtRheinMain economic initiative, a member of Commerzbank AG’s advisory committee for the state of Hesse and a member of HDI Gerling’s state advisory committee. He is also a member of the executive board of the Friends of the German-Vietnamese University and sits on the board of Dachser Group SE & Co. KG. Since January 2009, Stefan Messer has been Honorary Consul of the Republic of Slovenia for the consular district of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. Stefan Messer is also involved in ASU – Die Familienunternehmer, an association of family entrepreneurs that supports the fundamental values of a social market economy, in particular free enterprise. Furthermore, Stefan Messer is a member of the steering committee and board of the German Asia-Pacific Business Association (OAV) and Chairman of the inter-state committee on Thailand.
Involvement in industry associations
Messer Group is a member of the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA). The Brussels-based association represents nearly all European companies that produce and market industrial, medical and food gases. The association‘s members cooperate with the aim of achieving the highest possible safety and environmental standards during the production, transport and use of gases. At the beginning of each workshop organised by the EIGA, the members are reminded of the importance of complying with the “EIGA anti-trust meeting rules”. Messer is also a member of the International Oxygen Manufacturers Association (IOMA), the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations and the German Asia-Pacific Business Association (OAV). Messer employees are represented in all governing bodies of these associations.
Messer Group is a member of the German Welding Society (DVS e.V.). The DVS is a non-profit, technical and scientific association based in Düsseldorf. Messer is also involved in the family business association “Die Familienunternehmer e.V.”, in the FBN Family Business Network and in the FrankfurtRheinMain e.V. economic initiative.
Messer employees sit on expert committees, support research projects, and establish and maintain contact with expert groups in technologically advanced fields. The subsidiaries are involved in different local industry associations. The Messer companies are also involved in organisations in their local regions.
The Messer Compliance Management System (Messer CMS), which we implemented in 2010, is an organisational concept that describes Messer’s system of values and its practical implementation and defines the responsibilities derived from it. It constitutes a mandatory framework for resolving conflicts of interest and ensuring compliance with applicable laws, regulatory provisions and the inter-company and company-internal policy guidelines within all divisions of Messer. The managing directors and senior management are fully committed to the Messer CMS. As a system of values, its purpose is to establish a relationship with our customers, partners and employees as well as with our competitors, the public and the media, based on fairness, solidarity and trust, to resolve conflicts of interest and ensure compliance with the applicable laws, regulatory provisions and inter-company and company-internal policy guidelines within all divisions of Messer. The CMS developed for this purpose supports those responsible in the setting-up and implementation process and is also designed to prevent, as far as possible, any breaches of the Messer Code occurring in the first place.
The management of Messer Group GmbH has summarised the principles for the organisational concept in a set of rules (the “Messer Code”). The Messer Code stands for active corporate governance for the purpose of good business management and is intended as a guide for all employees in their day-to-day working life while taking into account the Messer Mission Statement. Managing directors must take appropriate measures to ensure that all employees have unrestricted access to the Messer Code and are aware of where and how it can be consulted.
The Messer Code of Conduct is the core document within the Messer Code. It is supplemented and given substance by Guidelines as well as other binding internal regulations.
Our employees are obliged to observe applicable laws and the rules of the Messer Code when performing their work.
We also expect our business partners, customers and other parties who work with Messer to observe applicable laws and the principles of the Messer Code.
The management of Messer Group GmbH bears responsibility for monitoring the Messer CMS. This organisational concept is binding for all managing directors, senior management staff and employees of the Messer Group.
The local managing directors are responsible for implementing this organisational concept in their own national subsidiary and ensuring that it is adhered to while observing applicable legal regulations. The board of Messer Group GmbH has appointed a Corporate Compliance Officer (CCO) to support the managing directors and the supervisory bodies in their duties. In addition, there are Local Compliance Officers (LCOs) who are designated by the regional directors in consultation with the respective national managing directors. The team of compliance officers is supplemented by the corporate departmental heads in the Corporate Office, who act as department-specific compliance officers ((fach)bereichsbezogene Compliance Officer, BCOs). The management of Messer Group GmbH has defined the general tasks, rights and obligations of the compliance officers in a Compliance Officer Guideline document.
Managing directors, senior management, the CCO, LCOs and BCOs also serve as role models. They are expected to demonstrate a high degree of social and ethical competence. Managing directors and senior management are expected to demonstrate an appropriate degree of organisation, leadership, communication, selectivity, oversight and direction in their activities. Moreover, they are obliged to protect customers, employees and the environment. In this context, a clear commitment to conducting business in compliance with the law is just as essential as preventing and disciplining illegal practices.
Besides traditional classroom training, there are webinars and e-learning courses given on selected topics relating to the Messer Code. The corporate departments, and the local management and departments generally decide on the content of the courses and the employees to be trained. They assume responsibility for arranging and giving the training courses, supported by external service providers as necessary, and ensuring that proper documentation is issued.
The Messer Group GmbH management may mandate training courses and specific course content as well as the group of employees to be trained.
Reporting and auditing
Important business matters are regulated by a defined approval process and reporting system governed by the Group Guidelines, by the largely standardised articles of association, by the rules of procedure for the boards of management of the (national) subsidiaries, by an approval and information list stipulating decision-making responsibilities among local management and their boards, regional management, corporate management and the Executive Board as well as the Supervisory Board of Messer Group GmbH, by signature regulations based on dual responsibility, and by specific requirements issued by the corporate divisions.
In addition to this, local, regional and departmental meetings are held regularly to discuss and coordinate topics and to exchange information and report about experiences.
The most important procedures at Messer are defined and often certified (e.g. ISO, GMP). Existing organisational structures are used to ensure adherence to the Messer Code. Each department, the regional managers and the management bodies have direct responsibility. Thus, each area of responsibility is accountable for ensuring implementation and observation of the Messer Code.
The Internal Audit team, supported by Corporate Legal and representatives of other departments, performs regular audits of all national subsidiaries which last several days. During the process, matters pertaining to the Messer Code (e.g. articles of association, rules of procedure, signature regulations, training provided, compliance with the reporting procedures, etc.) are also examined in detail. Individual departments also perform other detailed audits (e.g. SHEQ, Medical, IT). Findings and suggestions for improvement are documented in a report which is submitted to the Messer Group GmbH Executive Board. Follow-up audits are carried out in a specific time frame to check whether suggestions for improvement are being implemented.
Every three months, pending and threatened/imminent legal disputes which exceed a certain value/risk are queried centrally and the facts of the case, dispute value, litigation status, litigation risk and financial provisions already made or which may prove necessary are recorded. The managing directors/LCOs and BCOs are obliged to inform the CCO of any suspicion of a serious breach of the Messer Code. The CCO shall report to the Messer Group GmbH Executive Board and the Supervisory Board on a regular basis, and on request in specific cases about any serious breaches of the Messer Code of which he or she has been informed, in a timely manner, or otherwise once a year.
Likewise, once a year, all national subsidiaries and corporate departments report any issues relevant for the Risk Report to the VP Internal Audit. This is discussed by the Messer Group GmbH Executive Board, which then decides on any further measures that may need to be taken. These are then submitted to the Messer Group GmbH Supervisory Board along with further explanations as needed for information purposes.
Reporting in the event of compliance infringements and justified cases of suspicion
The managing directors and senior management must organise their area of responsibility such that reports from employees about infringements of applicable law or the Messer Code (“compliance infringements”), as well as justifiable cases of suspicion, can be submitted to them in a timely manner in order to ensure that prompt remedial action can be taken.
Part of the reporting process involves drawing up a report which records the action taken in response to confirmed compliance infringements. This includes a description of how the incident was investigated, how the consequences of the wrongdoing were established and what decision was made regarding further action.
The managing directors must take appropriate measures to ensure that all employees are informed about how and to whom breaches of the Messer Code are to be reported, including publishing a telephone hotline number and the compliance e-mail address. A total of 71 suspected compliance infringements were reported in 2018 (previous year: 69 suspected cases). This figure breaks down as follows: 20 in the Western Europe region, 19 in the Southeast Europe region, 9 in Central Europe and 23 in Asia.
Revision of Group Guidelines, List of Matters Requiring Approval and Legal Manual
The management of Messer Group GmbH adopted a revised version of the Group Guidelines in 2018. The sections that have been revised are “Legal Matters” (including the “Legal Manual”), “SHEQ – Safety, Health, Environment and Quality Management” and “Medical, Pharmaceutical and Food Gases”. Furthermore, definitions and translations were corrected and the order of some sections changed. The changes are intended to improve comprehension of the individual sections as well as the Group Guidelines as a whole.
The List of Matters Requiring Approval (previously: List of Approvals for the Supervisory Body) has also been revised. In addition to the requirements of the supervisory bodies, it now also features tables depicting the approval and information obligations with regard to other bodies and persons (in particular regional directors and the management), along with the applicable threshold values in each case.
Changes in Messer Group’s purchasing policy
Messer Group’s purchasing policy has been supplemented with the requirement to henceforth adhere to the principles enshrined in the “UN Global Compact” when selecting and auditing suppliers.
The UN Global Compact is the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative. It focuses on key issues such as human rights, labour standards, environmental protection and prevention of corruption, compliance with which the “Messer Code of Conduct” explicitly refers to as well.
New Food Safety Commitment and new Manual for Food Safety
In 2018, as part of a continuous improvement process, the Management of Messer Group GmbH adopted a new version of the “Food Safety Commitment” and a new “Handbook for Food Safety” as binding CMS documents within the Compliance Management System (CMS). The new manual sets out the obligations of the “Food Safety Commitment” and the “Messer Group Guidelines” in more detail and stipulates Messer’s specific requirements regarding food safety. Its purpose is to support the Messer companies in meeting their core obligations under Food Law.
Compliance-relevant excerpt from Corporate Design Manual
Design adjustments and the integration of new areas necessitated a revision of the Corporate Design Manual (CD Manual) used by Messer. What is new is the fact that, as of now, it is no longer the complete set of rules that is compliance-relevant: instead, it was decided in 2018 to adopt an excerpt from the manual as a legally binding compliance document. Its content deals with the guidelines regarding use of the Messer logo as well as vessel and vehicle labelling. This regulation, focusing as it does on indispensable aspects, reduces the hitherto considerable burden of coordination and approval work involved in each change.
Our brand is made up of the name of the Messer family and the additional phrase “Gases for Life”. It is used to market our products and services worldwide. By associating our brand with positive connotations, we are looking to gain long-term competitive advantages through emotional branding.
To this end, between 2013 and 2018, we regularly evaluated the Messer brand’s reputation scores and the media response in Germany. We carried out telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 private individuals in selected German cities to measure brand awareness.
We always measure brand awareness after the end of a financial year.
In view of new data protection regulations, we decided not to conduct our usual survey of private individuals for the 2018 financial year, instead initiating a corresponding B2B positioning survey. This involved surveying 4,000 companies in selected industries with operations in the towns of Bad Soden am Taunus, Duisburg, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg, Hamburg, Krefeld, Siegen and Munich.
In total, 795 responses were generated from companies in the automotive supply, chemical, research, metal processing, pharmaceutical, welding and pulp/paper sectors. According to the information at the respondents’ disposal, 23 % of the companies use industrial gases; 18 % do not use industrial gases. 59 % of respondents said they did not know. In response to the unaided question “Which manufacturers of industrial gases can you name?”, 17 % named Messer as a supplier; only one German competitor achieved a slightly higher figure with 2 %. In response to the aided question “Are you familiar with Messer as a manufacturer of industrial gases?”, 24 % answered yes. The highest level of awareness of the Messer brand is found among automotive suppliers, welding shops and metal processing firms; Messer is not well-known as a manufacturer of industrial gases in the pharmaceutical and pulp/paper sectors. 14 % of the companies surveyed perceive Messer as a market leader in the industrial gases sector. 79% were unable to give an assessment in this regard. Based especially on values for the towns of Krefeld, Siegen and Frankfurt (14 %), Messer is percieved as friendly. 86 % did not give an assessment in this regard.
At the end of 2017, 1,068 private individuals were surveyed regarding the level of awareness of the Messer brand. At the time, Messer achieved a value of 12.8 % for the unaided question.
The basis for a good relationship characterised by familiarity and trust can only be created through open and honest communication. This is why keeping in regular contact with customers, suppliers, partners, employees, industrial firms and organisations, with the media, our neighbours, the general public and the internet community – and not forgetting our valued retirees – is so important to us. Our communication channels are as varied as the needs of our stakeholders. Information about the Messer brand, product features or special technologies and services has to be compiled and made available in a suitable format, and it should be easily accessible. Messer uses a variety of channels to do this.
At Messer, the tools used for external communication are just as important as those used for internal communication. The channels of external communication include our corporate web presence, the websites of our national subsidiaries and specialist departments, press and public relations work, trade show appearances and exhibitions, image brochures, business reports, sponsoring and a quarterly customer magazine entitled “Gases for Life”, as well as a website of the same name: www.GasesforLife.de. When it comes to press and public relations work, Messer maintains close contact with the regional press as well as business and specialist publications.
In 2018, Messer Group further intensified its public relations work, above all in social media such as Facebook and Twitter – but also achieved high reach levels in classical media.
It issued 30 press releases over the course of the year.
The media response analysis shows that Messer attained a gross reach of 901.8 million people with its publications in independent online and print media. In 2017, the gross reach was 54.9 million people. Media reach is determined by independent specialist agencies according to standard criteria to ensure comparability. Gross reach indicates the number of people potentially contacted and is calculated on the basis of the media’s circulation and access figures. The very sharp increase in gross reach achieved in 2018 is mainly due to the fact that reports on the merger of our competitors Linde AG und Praxair, Inc. named Messer as a potential buyer of the shares to be disposed of as a condition of the merger to satisfy anti-trust requirements. Our own publications also attracted greater interest in the media. As in the previous year, all of the reports published about Messer in 2018 were positive and provided an accurate picture of our business activities.
We intensified our social media activities during our anniversary year, achieving high reach levels, particularly with the weekly publication of our history under the hashtag MesserStory on Facebook and Twitter. For example, our Twitter channel on average received some 20,000 hits a month. This special form of history marketing was used by a student working group at the Goethe University in Frankfurt as a best practice template for a history workshop.
In terms of internal communication, we communicate current strategic information via a Group-wide newsletter. Our employee magazine is published three times a year and features People, Projects and Strategy as its main sections. We make all department-related information, internal newsletters and press reports available in German and English via MesserNet, a Group-wide intranet. Since January 2018, the intranet has been run in a portal solution. The portal allows customisations, offers integrated content and document management and facilitates participation in blogs and forums.
China: New WeChat presence
In March 2018, immediately after the Chinese New Year, Messer China launched its new WeChat presence. The company has since been using this platform to share interesting information with selected target groups or the public on a regular basis. This includes news as well as interesting facts about the company, its applications or gases. The WeChat presence gained more than 1000 followers within two months. This success is partly due to close cooperation with the WeChat team at Messer Cutting Systems China: important content, such as the Chinese version of the "Messer Story" and relevant news, is published at the same time, enhancing the impact and scope of the information.
Induction into "Family Business Hall of Fame"
Stefan Messer was inducted into the Family Business Hall of Fame on 16 January 2019 in a ceremony in Munich held in front of around 200 invited guests from the realms of business, politics and society. Every year, German business daily Handelsblatt, auditing and consulting firm KPMG and family business foundation Stiftung Familienunternehmen jointly bestow the distinction on outstanding personalities from family enterprises and medium-sized companies. Stefan Messer was presented with the award for sustainable business management, in particular for Messer’s positive development since its return to family control.
AXIA Best Managed Companies Award
In the application phase for the Axia Best Managed Companies Award, Messer Group managed to qualify for the final round in 2018. In a further step, Messer Group will take part in an Axia BMC Coaching Session in 2019 to identify the company’s main strengths, challenges and areas of potential in four core areas, these being Strategy, Productivity & Innovation, Culture & Commitment and Governance & Finance. An award ceremony is expected to take place in 2019.
Rating Certificate in Switzerland
In 2018, for the eighth consecutive year, credit rating agency Bisnode D&B Schweiz AG awarded Messer in Switzerland a Rating Certificate with Risk Indicator 1, which represents a minimal default risk. Only two per cent of all companies in Switzerland meet the conditions for this top category. The certificate distinguishes Messer in Switzerland as a trustworthy, reliable, economically healthy and stable business partner. Bisnode D&B is a partner in the network run by Dun & Bradstreet, the world’s largest service provider for business-to-business economic information.
Chamber of commerce honours Messer Schweiz
In 2018, Messer in Switzerland was honoured by the German-Swiss Chamber of Commerce in recognition of the company’s 25 years of membership and its special contribution to the promotion of economic relations between Switzerland and Germany as an active member of the chamber. Stefan Messer supports the activities of the German-Swiss Chamber of Commerce in his capacity as member of the board.
TOP 100 in Bosnia-Herzegovina
In September 2018, Messer BH Gas was ranked among the 100 biggest companies in Bosnia-Herzegovina for 2017 by “Poslovne novine”, one of the country’s leading business magazines. The company ranking was based on annual sales, the operating result, export figures and investment. This distinction is clear proof of success; it also provides confirmation for business partners and the public that the companies are committed to further development. The ranking is also a signal for potential investors looking for opportunities and seeking to implement new projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
"Employer – Organiser of Safe Work" award
In October 2018, our subsidiary Eloros, which has its production site in Rybnik, Poland, was awarded a statue in the category “Companies with up to 50 employees” as part of the 25th “Employer – Organiser of Safe Work” competition. The annual event is organised at a regional level by the state labour inspectorate. The aim of the competition is to support companies that ensure high work safety and health standards for their employees and comply with the applicable labour laws.
Messer received six Safety Awards for exemplary work safety from the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA) on the occasion of its Summer Session, which was held in Riga, Latvia, in June 2018 (see section on Safety).
FEIQUE Safety Award received again
In June 2018, Messer Ibérica once again received the “FEIQUE Safety Award” in recognition of outstanding results in the prevention of industrial accidents. All the production sites operated by the Spanish Messer subsidiary were accident-free during the 210,005 hours worked in 2017. The award was presented by the director of the National Institute for Safety, Health and Wellbeing at Work (INSSBT) and the chairman of FEIQUE’s safety commission. Every year, FEIQUE, the business federation of the Spanish chemical industry, bestows safety awards in recognition of the commitment shown and resources deployed by companies in the industry to ensure the safety of their employees. Messer Ibérica has received the award for the seventh time. In 2018, the company marked 15 years of accident-free working at the site of its air separation unit in Vilaseca as well as ten years with zero accidents at the air separation site in El Morell.