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Wärtsilä: New CEO outlines plans

Shanghai: In one week’s time Jaako Eskola will leave Shanghai after six years to return home to Finland where the biggest challenges of his career awaits.

This August Finnish power firm Wärtsilä Corporation announced that Eskola will become the company’s new president and CEO effective November 1, replacing Björn Rosengren who is leaving the group to take up the role of CEO at Swedish engineering group Sandvik.

Eskola steps up from his role of deputy CEO, while also currently the president of Wärtsilä Marine Solutions, based in China. The 58-year-old joined Wärtsilä in 1998 and has headed up the Marine Solutions division since 2006.

“Living in China, especially in Shanghai, it is very lively and this entrepreneurship – everyone sees opportunities, everyone works hard – I will miss that,” he says on his impending departure from the People’s Republic. On returning to Helsinki, Eskola says: “I’m looking forward as ceo to being part of the energy business again, which is where I used to be.”

Eskola’s experience while based in China will see him well equipped for his new role. China accounted for 11% of Wartsila’s total sales last year, and the company has four joint ventures and six licensees in the People’s Republic.

Yes, China has slowed down, says Eskola, but it will be back. “It will come back and when it does, we will be extremely well positioned,” he insists. Wärtsilä’s latest factory in China is nearly complete and the Shanghai facility will help China’s booming cruise industry when it comes onstream, Eskola says.

Wärtsilä has been hit by the shipping and offshore downturn, unquestionably. It has seen huge restructuring and plenty of layoffs – another 600 announced this July.

“The market is challenging,” admits the power firm’s ceo-in-waiting. Nevertheless, Eskola insists that the group’s diverse business and its acquisitions have positioned it better than others.

“Our success is not based on one segment,” Eskola says.

So what’s the plans for Wärtsilä under his tenure? “My goal is to try and expand,” he tells Maritime CEO. “There are opportunities in the market. There will be consolidation in the market.”

For Eskola the future growth for both shipping and Wärtsilä centers around efficiciency, fuel flexibility, gas and innovation.

Right now, he has to get packing for that Finnair ride home.

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