Ekornes

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For the steamship, see SS Ekornes.
Ekornes ASA
Type Public
Industry Furniture
Founded 1934
Founders J.E. Ekornes
Headquarters Ikornnes, Norway
Area served Worldwide
Key people Olav Holst-Dyrnes ( CEO)
Products

luxury Furniture
Recliners
Sofas

Beds
Revenue

NOK 2,611 million (US $429 million)

(2013)
Employees 1600
Website ekornes.com

Ekornes ASA (OSE: EKO) is a Norwegian furniture company. It is principally known for its luxury line of reclining armchairs and sofas sold under the trademark Stressless. The patented mechanism of knob-controlled friction sliders on steel tubing allows the recliners to adjust to shifting sitting positions. They are the only recliners endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association. Founded in 1934 by J.E Ekornes, Ekornes is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange and, as of 2011, employs more than 1600 persons worldwide. Ekornes is based in Sykkylven, Møre og Romsdal, Norway.

Ekornes ASA is the largest furniture manufacturer in the Nordic region and owns such brand names as Ekornes®, Stressless® and Svane®. Stressless® is one of the world’s most famous furniture brands, while Ekornes® and Svane® are the best known brands in the Norwegian furniture market. Products are manufactured in Norway and marketed across large parts of the world by a network of national and regional sales companies. Ekornes ASA is the parent company in the Ekornes Group. The group’s production facilities are organised according to its product areas: Stressless®, Ekornes Collection® (furniture) and Svane® (mattresses). Ekornes ASA provides all shared services, including group management, marketing, purchasing, accounting and finance, as well as product development for Stressless® and Ekornes® Collection.

History[edit]

1934
Production at the J.E. Ekornes Fjærfabrikk started in 1934, with three employees and German engineered machinery. Furniture manufacturing had just become established in Sunnmøre, and this provided the founder, Jens Ekornes, with his first customers. It didn't take long before these springs for furniture and mattresses were sold throughout Norway.

Greater challenges were to come. Once the production of the springs was established, it was only natural that he would develop an interest in the mattresses themselves as well. He wanted them to be different from the traditional heavy steel-spring mattresses fitted onto wooden frames by means of unsatisfactory lacing. At an exhibition, Jens Ekornes saw a British mattress whose interior consisted of a large number of springs linked together on both sides by steel coils. He understood at once that this system could also be used inside an ordinary mattresses. As soon as he got home he started to try this concept with factory foreman Nils Sjøholt, and before long they are able to present the first Svane mattress. This was followed quickly by new products, new factories and a steadily increasing workforce.

1935-38
Jens Ekornes presented the new idea for internal springs at the major furniture exhibition in Ålesund. The springs were linked together by steel coils, and could be used inside furniture cushions as well as mattresses. The first Svane mattresses appeared on the market. They were launched in three versions: Eva, Ideal and Rekord.

1946
Jens Ekornes traveled to the USA where he worked in a mattress factory to learn more about the trade. While he was away, his brothers Martin and Leif looked after the business at Ikornnes. Jens Ekornes then bought American machinery for the production of upholstered spring mattresses. This made it possible to rationalize the manufacturing process and consequently sell the Svane mattress at a more reasonable price. He also brought back an expert from the USA who helped set up the new machinery and train people in its operation.

1947
The factory began to manufacture the wooden furniture components needed for sofa beds and mattress bases.

1955
Mattress production began at Ikornnes, and as part of the implementation of the Northern Norway plan, in Bodø as well.

1959
J.E. Ekornes AS began to produce foamed plastic. This created an important element in the manufacturing process of Ekornes' own mattresses and furniture, as well as production for sale on the open market.

1962
Ekornes Fetsund was established outside Oslo for the manufacture and production of mattresses and furniture.

1966
Ekornes launched its first collection of lounge furniture. As the first furniture manufacturer in Norway, Ekornes distributed information about its products, entitled ‘Svaneinformasjon' (Svane News), to every household in the country. This first success has since been followed by the direct mailing of a new Ekornes catalog every year. For the first time, furniture was launched with a brand name. The Ekornes family acquired the public company Vik & Blindheim Møbelfabrikk AS, which became Svane Møbler AS.

1967
Ekornes acquired the manufacturing rights for Nirva mattresses from DFU, and the manufacturing rights for Paradise mattresses from Steen & Strøm. Production of foamed plastic began at the Fetsund factory. A factory was built for the manufacturing of needle-felt carpets, which were then marketed by Tarkett/Fagertun AS.

1969
Mattress production was moved from Ikornnes to Fetsund. Ekornes launched its first leather-upholstered lounge furniture.

1970
Ekornes changed its policy, and concentrated on a selective sales strategy in the Norwegian market. The number of distributors was reduced from approximately 1,200 to 200, and the name of the local distributors were printed on the catalogs. This year Ekornes also applied for a patent for Stressless.

1971
The first Stressless chairs were launched on the Norwegian market. The success of Stressless lead to a major expansion and automation of the steel department. This expansion takes Stressless and Ekornes into the most expansive chapter of its history.

1972
Ekornes took over the production of Helly Hansen's foamed plastic mattresses, which were still marketed by Helly Hansen.

1974
Svane Møbler AS began to work with the Stranda Lenestolfabrikk AS furniture company, and acquired 51% of its shares. In the same year, Jens and Petrine Ekornes gave three-quarters of the shares in J.E. Ekornes Fabrikker AS to a trust called ‘The Foundation' established by Jens Ellingsen Ekornes and his wife Petrine Ekornes to further the aid charity of the Norwegian Missionary Society.

1975
Revenue of the Ekornes Group exceeded NOK 100 million.

1976
The Fetsund plant was destroyed by a fire. A new factory was built during the years from 1976 to 1978. Svane Møbler AS became the chief shareholder in Gjerde Møbler AS. Later the same year Ekornes Grodås AS was established as the joint chief shareholder with Svane Møbler AS.

1977
The Ekornes Group was now the largest furniture manufacturer in Scandinavia.

1978
Ekornes started developing marketing, advertising and design with the A. Huseby & Sønn AS furniture company in Våler. Ekornes/Huseby had a joint sales team and permanent operations in Oslo and Copenhagen. After having run its accounts on a central computer system since 1974, Ekornes entered the computer age with earnest in 1978. An on-line computer system was acquired and set up for order-processing, invoicing, statistics and production control. Permanent office and exhibition spaces were established; five in Torggata and seven in Oslo.

1979
Ekornes started to work with P.I. Langlos Fabrikker AS, the long-established furniture company in Stranda, and acquired 49% of its shares. Svane Møbler AS was then re-registered under the name Ekornes Møbler AS.

1980
Revenue for the Stressless collection exceeded NOK 100 million, and a new milestone was reached. Exports showed a positive trend. A three-year sales campaign by the export firm Westnofa started in the USA. Since that time, the USA has been the largest export market for Ekornes. Ekornes moved into its new administration building (2,700 square metres) with show room, conference room, canteen and offices in Sykkylven.

1982/83
The ownership structure within the Ekornes Group was reorganized so the regulations for corporate taxation applied to all the companies. Ekornes Møbler AS, which is owned by the second generation of the Ekornes family, acquired the A shares in J.E. Ekornes Fabrikker AS, and additional B shares which belonged to The Foundation. These transactions enabled one generation to hand on to the next. Ekornes Møbler AS became the owner of over 90% of the shares in J.E. Ekornes Fabrikker AS, Ekornes Grodås AS, Stranda Lenestolfabrikk AS, Gjerde Møbler AS and P.I. Langlos Fabrikker AS. (A minimum of 90% is a condition for corporate taxation). The exhibition space at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen was expanded from 820 square feet (76 m2) to 2,300 square feet (210 m2), and Ekornes opened a European office under the name J.E. Ekornes ApS.

1983
Exports exceeded NOK 100 million, and Stressless number 500,000 was registered. The conditions were now right for the establishment of the Ekornes Ltd sales company in the UK. The parent company's progression in the export market received attention, and Ekornes was awarded the Export Prize for 1983. It was then agreed to merge J.E. Ekornes Fabrikker AS and Ekornes Møbler AS. The name of this merger company became J.E. Ekornes AS.

1984
The company was now 50 years old. The event was properly celebrated by both employees and customers. In the course of the spring, 1,500 furniture distributors and sales personnel were invited to the headquarters at Ikornnes to be shown the company's products. Ekornes acquired the bulk of the shares in Velledalen Fabrikker AS, and also purchased 75% of the shares in Ulferts AB in Tibro, Sweden. Production at the Vik department (formerly Ekornes Møbler AS) was moved to the Velledalen factory in Straumgjerde. The acquisition of Ulferts AB lead to a doubling of the Group's production capabilities, a wider selection of goods, and access to a complete sales organization in Sweden and the UK. By the end of the year, the number of employees had doubled, rising from 795 to 1,585 by the end of 1983.

1985
By 1985 there were now eight Ekornes factories in Norway, plus (?quantity)Ulferts AB in Sweden. In October 1985, Ekornes also acquired a furniture company in West Germany, Erpo Möbelwerk J.E. Ekornes Gmbh & Co. Ekornes purchased the remaining 25% of the shares in Ulferts AB from Asken AB, and was now the sole owner of the company. Ekornes established the Oy Ekornes AB sales company in Finland, and the Ekornes Inc. company in the USA. In 1985, Ekornes made a capital increase by issuing and selling 250,000 general shares and 250,000 preferred shares (preferred shares were sold by the Ekornes family). This direction was organized by Sunndal & Co. in collaboration with the banks Sunnmørsbanken AS, Christiania Bank and Kreditkasse AS. It involved a total of NOK 100 million, which produced a new equity of NOK 50 million for J.E. Ekornes AS. The financial results for 1985 broke the 50-year tradition of annual net profit, and showed a loss for both J.E. Ekornes AS and for the Group.

1986
It was agreed not to pay out a dividend for the financial year of 1985. The Board of Directors did however agree to a scrip issue by issuing one bonus share for every two old shares to all new shareholders who purchased shares during the April scrip issue. During the second half of 1986, a plan was approved for consolidating and restructuring the Group, which started immediately. The plan involved a reduction in the number of production units, and a significant reduction in the number of employees both in Norway and in Sweden. From then on, upholstered furniture would be manufactured at three factories, Ekornes Erpo, Ulferts Stopp and Ekornes Stranda AS. The last of these would concentrate on the production of upholstered furniture with exposed wooden components, in cooperation with Ekornes Grodås AS. Ulferts Tre which would be responsible for the manufacturing of cabinets and cupboards, with the associated range of tables and dining room furniture. Production of reclining chairs would be concentrated at Ikornnes, while the manufacture and sale of mattresses and upholstery materials would be based at Fetsund. At the end of 1986, the Group has 1,665 employees.

1987
By October 1987, Managing Director Jens Petter Ekornes relinquished his post of his own volition. His position was then taken by Bent Nilsson. The structural changes approved by the Board of Directors at the end of 1986 were completed in 1987. This involved the closing down of three production units. Bed manufacturing was moved from Tibro to Fetsund, the two factories at Stranda were combined, and Velledalen Fabrikker AS was closed down. In addition, the factory manager at Ikornnes took over responsibility for production at Gjerde Fabrikker AS. The number of employees in the Group was reduced by 228. An agreement was made with the company's bankers to convert short-term foreign currency loans to a long-term liability amounting to NOK 110 million.

1988
From the beginning of 1988, sales operations in Sweden became independent of the Swedish production unit. The new company was called Ekornes Sverige AB. The two joining factories in Tibro were sold and a ‘sales/lease back' agreement was made with the upholstery factory in Tibro. In the course of the year, restructuring took place, which meant that the operative units were organized in decentralized profit centers. The main principal behind this was the creation of a production and sales company. The sales company would buy in finished goods from the Group's own production companies, as well as other companies in the industry, for onward sales to distributors in the respective markets. At the end of 1988, the number of employees in the Group was reduced to 1,059 as compared with 1,437 at the end of 1987.

1989
After Ekornes phased out the cabinet and cupboard factory in Tibro, the Group enterd into a cooperative arrangement with the Danish board furniture factory Domino AS. The merger commenced in May/June 1989. Ekornes established a sales company in France, Ekornes France S.A.R.L. The new sales company became operative January 1, 1990. Mattress production in Bodø is phased out. In December, Ekornes acquired a 33% interest in Domino AS. At the end of 1989, the Group employed 979 people.

1990
At the Annual General Meeting in June, the Board of Directors and the Managing Director resigned after their proposal for refinancing did not receive majority support. A new Board was appointed, and once again Jens Petter Ekornes assumed the position of Managing Director effective immediately. As the result of the poor profit trend indicated for the future, the following refinancing plan was implemented during the course of the second half of the year in collaboration with the major creditors.

1991
Attempts to sell Domino AS in Denmark were unsuccessful, and after debt settlement proceedings the company considered it appropriate to petition bankruptcy in February 1991. Production was transferred to Huseby AS and collaboration with Huseby was resumed. The Group continued to implement the action plan which was prepared in 1990, with the aim of improving the financial results. In February the Board agreed to move the factory work from Stranda to Grodås. The number of employees was 739 at the end of 1991.

1992
Two capital reductions within J.E. Ekornes AS were carried out during 1992. At the Annual General Meeting on June 29 the share capital of NOK 72,073,880 was written down to NOK 0. This capital reduction was used to cover losses which could not be covered in any other way. The capital reduction was achieved by redeeming the shares. The Ekornes family's subordinated loan of NOK 2,700,000 was converted into shares. After this, the new share capital amounts to NOK 2,052,000. At the company's Annual General Meeting on October 5, 1992 it was agreed to write down the share capital of NOK 2,052,000 as well. This capital reduction was also achieved by redeeming the shares. At the same time as this latest capital reduction, 1,026,000 new shares were issued in the company, each with a nominal value of NOK 1. These shares constituted the company's share capital as of December 31, 1992. The Ekornes Group showed a profit for the first time since 1984. The number of employees was 786 at the end of year.

1993
The Kreditkassen bank and some members of the Ekornes family became the major shareholders with 70% and 30% interests respectively, via the holding company Ekornes Invest AS. The share capital in J.E. Ekornes AS was increased to NOK 30 million. Subordinated loans amounting to NOK 70 million, and mortgage loans worth NOK 3 million, were written down. A mortgage loan in CBK worth NOK 32 million was converted to a new subordinated loan, while at the same time a new subordinated loan was received from the SND worth NOK 20 million. Equity was increased by NOK 102 million, and was once again positive. The number of employees at the end of the year was 711.

1994
The company was now 60 years old. The manufacturing plant in Germany (Erpo) was sold in September. Ekornes now had four manufacturing plants, all in Norway. Ekornes Fetsund AS, Fetsund, Manufacturer of mattresses and foamed plastic. J.E. Ekornes AS, Ikornnes, Production of Stressless chairs and sofas, together with foamed plastic Ekornes Stranda AS, Stranda, Sofa production Ekornes Grodås AS, Grodås, Manufacturer of wood components, mainly subcontracting to Stranda and Ikornnes. The sales companies in Sweden and Denmark were wound down and all the sales and marketing operations were gathered under one umbrella organization, Ekornes Skandinavia AS, with its office at the main headquarters at Ikornnes. Ekornes Invest AS changed its name to Ekornes AS and became the parent company for the Group. Share capital in Ekornes AS was increased to NOK 29,331,980. The shares were now owned by Christiania management AS (69.9%) and the Ekornes family (29.9%), together with some minority shareholders (0.2%) who changed their shares in J.E. Ekornes AS to shares in Ekornes AS. After this, J.E. Ekornes AS was wholly owned by Ekornes AS. The former Ekornes AS changed its name to Ekornes Fonds AS. The financial results for 1994 were the best in the company's history, showing a profit of NOK 64.4 million after net financial costs, representing an increase of NOK 47.3 million over the results of 1993. The number of employees at the end of the year was 639.

1995
On February 10, 1995, Ekornes AS applied to be listed on the Oslo stock exchange. The application was granted on March 1, 1995. Ekornes AS organizes a public increase of capital and share sale. The subscription/purchase period was March 6-17th, 1995. After this capital increase, the company's share capital amounts to NOK 32,231,980, distributed as 6,446,396 shares at NOK 5. The company's largest shareholder was Christiania Management AS. The first quotation of a share price on the Oslo stock exchange was by April 6, 1995. Ekornes declared an operating profit of NOK 79.6 million, the best in the company's history.

1996
In January Ekornes AS changed name to Ekornes ASA to comply with the alteration of the tax laws in accordance with the EEA agreement. On May 1, Ekornes took over the operation of Utgård Mestermøbler AS in Hareid, and rented the premises. Ekornes Hareid AS was established on April 25, 1996 with share capital of NOK 3,000,000. The shares were owned by Ekornes ASA. Ekornes ASA acquired the plant and building sites of Jarnes & Krokå, as well as the Ikofisk factory and Signe Langdal's property. All three properties were located in the neighborhood of the Ikornnes factory. The 60th anniversary of the Svane mattress was celebrated with the launch of a new mattress collection. Stressless celebrated its 25th anniversary. On June 25, Nils Fredrik Drabløs was appointed Managing Director of Ekornes ASA. At the same time, Jens Petter Ekornes was appointed CEO. Production capacity at the Ikornnes factory had now significantly increased. Around 80 new jobs were created at Ikornnes. Production capacity at Fetsund was doubled during the course of the autumn, and 40 additional jobs were created. The reconstruction and commissioning of the Stranda factory, representing an investment of around NOK 12.0 million, was completed. The Stranda factory stood out as one of the world's most contemporary furniture factories. A record annual profit was declared for the third year in a row, amounting to NOK 121.8 million (pre-tax). The Management and Board of Directors decided to pay out a bonus, equivalent to half a month's wages, to all the employees. This cost approximately NOK 8 million. The annual revenue for 1996 is NOK 796 million, and the Group now employed 914 people.

1997
At the Ordinary General Meeting of Ekornnes ASA on March 17, it was decided to purchase AS Vestlandske Møbler. The acquisition was made by means of a capital increase offered to the former owners of Vestlandske. After this transaction, the new share capital in Ekornes ASA stood at NOK 33,308,720. The General Meeting resolved that the shares in Ekornes ASA should be split into five, changing from a nominal value of NOK 5, to a nominal value of NOK 1. After this share-splitting, the number of shares is 33,308,720.

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