Ivey Publishing

Cembrit’s European conquest

Like its nomadic namesake the Cimbri tribe, Danish company Cembrit Holding A/S (Cembrit) has proven itself as a fighter in Europe. Romeo Turcan, associate professor at Aalborg University’s Department of Business and Management, authored Cembrit Holding A/S: At the Crossroads about a local company with broad ambition. With headquarters in Aalborg, D.K., Cembrit is Europe’s second-largest producer of fibre-cement products. 

Much of Cembrit’s struggle stemmed from industry changes that were mandated in 2005, when the European Commission banned the use of all asbestos. Asbestos was declared hazardous to human health in the 1970s, but was still widely produced by Cembrit and its competitors.

Following in the footsteps of the Cimbri tribe.

Turcan trusts the historical ties are a big part of what makes his case so interesting:

“Cembrit was named after the ancient Cimbri people, a nomadic tribe that broke from Northern Jutland (now continental Denmark and northern Germany). Around 100 BC, the Cimbri people fought against the Roman Republic, making their way through Europe on conquest. The story of Cembrit parallels the struggle of its namesake. Cembrit ‘fought’ from Denmark through Europe and beyond to become one of the leading distributors and manufacturers of fibre-cement products in Europe by 2008. It narrates how Cembrit, pursuing its ambition for international growth, went through a period of restructuring, acquisitions and consolidation. Cembrit acquired fibre-cement companies in production, sales and distribution throughout Europe, and eventually closed down its own production in Denmark.”

Why add this case to your strategy or international business syllabus?

The case enables students to explore, discuss and appreciate a number of organizational and managerial challenges such as dealing with regulatory constraints, restructuring or re-inventing an organization, identifying and pursuing international market opportunities, innovation and new product development, developing a growth strategy, and determining a subsidiary’s position within a parent company.

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