Logos of ABB AG sit on display outside the company's semi-conductor plant in Lenzburg, Switzerland.

Gianluca Colla | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Logos of ABB AG sit on display outside the company’s semi-conductor plant in Lenzburg, Switzerland.

ABB Chairman Peter Voser has taken over as temporary chief executive at the Swiss engineering group, the company said on Wednesday, after CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer resigned.

In a surprise move Spiesshofer, CEO since 2013, agreed with the board to step down and a search has begun for a successor, ABB said. The company, in the midst of its latest overhaul and selling its $11 billion Power Grids business to Toshiba, has struggled with a lacklustre share performance in recent years and pressure from activist shareholders.

It has also been dogged by problems with its internal financial controls, which led to reduced bonuses for some executive committee members.

On Wednesday ABB said its revenues increased by 4 percent on a comparable basis during the first quarter, although net income dropped by 6 percent, as profitability fell due to the integration of the low-margin General Electric Industrial Solutions business.

Voser, the former Royal Dutch Shell CEO who was ABB’s chief financial officer from 2002 to 2004, said he would continue to shift ABB to be more of an industrial automation company.

“To achieve our key financial targets, we will proceed with the divestment of ABB’s Power Grids business as planned, simplify the organizational structure of the group and deliver cost savings,” Voser said.



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