As a business, the KWH Group goes right back to the 1920s and 30s. The Group proper was formed in 1984, when Oy Keppo Ab acquired half of Oy Wiik & Höglund Ab’s shares held by the Wiik family. Emil Höglund had been involved in the foundation of both companies thus, their managements felt a strong sense of solidarity despite their different operating areas.
One August night in 1929 Emil Höglund and Edvin Wiik were sitting at the Finnström inn in Maxmo discussing their future. They were both in the timber business but were now facing the prospect of looking for new work.
Their discussions that night led to the establishment of the Wiik & Höglund timber company on August 28, 1929.
In the winter of 1937 the poultry breeder Karl Johan Stuns of Vörå got in touch with Emil Höglund to ask whether he was interested in setting up a mink farm with him. In September 1937, seventeen minks from Sweden arrived at the Holmåkers mink farm in the village of Rökiö in Vörå. In 1953 the farm was the biggest in Finland.
At the beginning of 1950s Wiik & Höglund started to manufacture plastic floor tiles with a Swedish license. Polyethylene film manufacture started in 1954, and the first polyethylene pipes were supplied to customers in 1955. Wiik & Höglund won an international name as a manufacturer of heavy-duty piping.
Wiik & Höglund set up a sales company in Umeå, Sweden, in 1962. 1969 can be considered the breakthrough year when the Vaasa factory started exporting its polyethylene pipes.
Large sums of capital were invested in mink farming in the 1960s. The company also acquired businesses in other fields, e.g. the abrasives factory Mirka, and Keppo increasingly became a multi-sector enterprise with a more industrial profile.
At the end of 1970s the mink farms were still doing well and the extension of Mirka could continue: the company invested in abrasives for industrial use.
When Keppo acquired the majority holding in Wiik & Höglund in 1984, the Group’s structure changed dramatically. The enterprise was organized into nine divisions. The global crisis in the fur business in the late 1980s led to a drastic stripping of production and in 1992 the Group concluded its fur farming business.
According to the new strategy, the Group’s limited resources were to be focused on developing its core operations which were defined as KWH Pipe, KWH Plast and KWH Mirka. Other aspects of operations would be gathered together within KWH Invest.
The main restructuring of the Group into an international industrial group within the chemical-technical sector was chiefly carried out in 1992.
KWH Mirka underwent the biggest changes. Systematic and determined investment in product development resulted in products which measure up to the market leaders. From a modest starting position in the international field, Mirka has reached a leading position especially in automotive refinishing (ART).
Oy Backman-Trummer Ab in Vaasa was formed in 1988 through the merger of two smaller shipping and stevedoring companies.
At the end of 2001 a new division, KWH Logistics, was formed. It consisted of KWH Freeze Ltd and the Backman-Trummer Group.
Since a sectoral restructuring measure in the 1980s, the KWH Group had owned a third share in Oy Prevex Ab which manufactures injection-moulded products for the plumbing sector. In 2003 Prevex became a fully owned subsidiary.
In the early 1990s, KWH Pipe expanded in Europe and Asia. The objective in pipe manufacturing was to separate from bulk products and invest in niche products which enjoy greater profitability. Lightweight pipes were launched in the 1990s.
In 2013 KWH Group and Uponor Corp. formed a joint venture, Uponor Infra, which combines their pipe systems businesses which had been hit by the recession.
The 1990s were a decade of change for KWH Plast. The use of PVC sheeting in the stationery sector had been declining but the manufacture of polypropylene (PP) film for packaging applications compensated the decline. The stationery business sector was discontinued in 2008. In 2012 the business of KWH Plast was bought by Schur Flexibles Group.
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