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.
The founding of Wiik & Höglund and Keppo
One August night in 1929 Emil Höglund and Edvin Wiik were sitting in the Finnström inn in Maksamaa 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. Almost ten years later, in the winter of 1937 the poultry breeder Karl Johan Stuns of Vöyri 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 Vöyri, and Keppo was founded.
The business diversifies
At the beginning of the 1950s Wiik & Höglund started to manufacture plastic floor tiles. Soon they also started to manufacture polyethylene film, and the first polyethylene pipes were supplied to customers in 1955. Wiik & Höglund found its own line in the plastics industry in the 1960s when it was the first in the world to produce larger and larger plastic pipes. Therefore it won an international name as a manufacturer of heavy-duty piping. Keppo in turn invested large sums of capital in mink farming in the 1960s. In 1964 the farm was the biggest in the world. 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. In the 1970s more than half of the turnover came from industry.
The birth of the KWH Group
When Keppo acquired the majority holding in Wiik & Höglund in 1984, the Keppo Group structure changed dramatically, and KWH Group was born. 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. The main restructuring of the Group into an international industrial group within the chemical-technical sector was chiefly carried out the same year.
Reorganization of the group structure
According to the new strategy, the Group’s 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, like Prevex, would be grouped together under KWH Invest. Mirka underwent the biggest changes. Systematic and determined investment in product development resulted in products which measure up to the market leaders. At the end of 2001 a new division, KWH Logistics, was formed. It consisted of KWH Freeze Ltd and the Backman-Trummer Group. In 2003 KWH Group acquired all of Prevex. Through Prevex KWH Group has invested in developing world’s most space-saving and innovative water traps. In 2012 the Group sold KWH Plast and the manufacturing of polyethylene film. The following year KWH Group and Uponor Corp. formed a joint venture, Uponor Infra, which combines their pipe systems businesses. KWH owns 44,7% of the shares of the venture.
KWH Group’s subsidiaries have continued to grow steadily. Their products have been exported abroad already for decades and Mirka has founded subsidiaries all over the world. During 2010s the KWH Group has strengthened its international presence in other fields, too. In 2016 Prevex bought a Polish family- owned company Winkiel which produces water traps for kitchen and design products for bathrooms. The name of the company was changed to Prevex Poland in 2018. Mirka in turn acquired Italian superabrasive wheels and tools manufacturer CAFRO in 2017. The next year Mirka founded a logistics center In Belgium to support the European sales companies. KWH Logistics has opened an office in Moscow.
The Keppo Mansion, situated in Jepua, Uusikaarlepyy, has always been important for the KWH Group. It is one of a few mansions left in Ostrobothnia. Small-scale industry has been typical for it during its whole history.
A short story of the history of the KWH Group has been written. It includes the the whole history from the birth of the Group to the 1990s.