François Jackow will take control of Air Liquide in 2022



Change in continuity. The formula may seem worn out, but it’s still the one that best suits Air Liquide. The French industrial gas giant announced Wednesday 1er December, a change in its governance, with the separation from June 2022 of the functions of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

→ READ. Hydrogen projects are multiplying

The current CEO, Benoît Potier, will only be president, and the operational management of the group will be entrusted to François Jackow. The current number two will become the sixth boss of the group, which will celebrate in 2022 … its 120 years. The operation should be ratified by the general meeting of shareholders, to be held next spring.

Smooth transition

These changes come as no surprise. The renewal next year of the mandate of Benoît Potier, 64 years old and reached by the age limit, represented the opportunity to smoothly organize his succession on which the directors have been working for two years. François Jackow, 52, was a favorite.

The current Deputy Managing Director has spent most of his career at Air Liquide, where he joined in 1993. He was notably director of innovation, head of the group in Japan, in charge of global management of large industry and director of strategy. He has been a member of the executive committee since 2014.

A group in great shape

Joined the group in 1981, Benoît Potier took control in 2001 before becoming CEO in 2006. Under his leadership, Air Liquide has undergone profound changes. Turnover rose from 8.3 billion euros to 20.5 billion euros and its capitalization increased almost fivefold to reach 70 billion euros. The workforce has doubled and the number of clients has almost quadrupled.

This growth is partly linked to acquisitions, with two very important transactions. In 2004, Air Liquide acquired the activities in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States of its German competitor Messer. In 2015, he launched a friendly takeover bid on the American for 12.5 billion euros, which allowed him to increase its size by a third. This biggest takeover in the history of the group is undoubtedly also one of the last major structuring operations in the sector, which now has only a handful of global players.

A growing sector

Today, the rise of hydrogen and the industry’s decarbonisation objectives are opening up a new avenue for Air Liquide, already very active in the capture and storage of CO.2. The group plans to invest a total of nearly 8 billion euros in low carbon hydrogen by 2035. It is also developing a lot in digital technology, which allows it to improve its industrial processes, with for example one billion pieces of data collected per day on all of its sites.

At the origin of the World Hydrogen Council, Benoît Potier is today co-president of the National Hydrogen Council, which manages the French sector.

With the aging of the population, Air Liquide’s home healthcare activities should also continue to grow strongly. The group will present its new strategic plan in March 2022.

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