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Safer, sustainable connectivity

By He Wei in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-19 08:24

Terrence Curtin, CEO of TE Connectivity Ltd, took the company's helm in March 2017. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Terrence Curtin leads TE toward B&R-related opportunities

The transcontinental virtual interview via a conference call with Terrence Curtin, CEO of TE Connectivity Ltd, was so smooth and clear that one almost ignored we were on either side of the Pacific Ocean, in Pennsylvania and Shanghai respectively, whose time zones were 13 hours apart.

But then, that's what TE Connectivity does-its top-quality connectors and sensors help to seamlessly connect long distances in the virtual realm.

"We are not a brand you get to hear (about) every day, but our products play a key role nevertheless," said Curtin, 48, who took the TE helm in March 2017.

Registered in Switzerland, TE's business in connectors and sensors generated $12.2 billion in global revenue in fiscal year ended Sept 30, 2016, and $1.9 billion in operating profit.

It designs and makes the components, which are used by a variety of industries, from telecom and automotive to aerospace and energy.

TE's products and solutions help make cars move faster while consuming less energy, and enable better and frictionless network transmission.

Curtin joined the company in 2001. Back then, it was known as Tyco Electronics, the electronics arm of conglomerate Tyco International Ltd.

He has since taken on a number of roles, including overseeing the company's financial matters. He aided the company's spinoff and listing in 2007, oversaw mergers and acquisitions, and led the company's most profitable connectivity and sensor business.

"Independence means going from being something big to controlling your own destiny. We are allowed to make our own decisions, and I've become a completely different person, to be more responsible to my 75,000 employees," he said.

TE grabbed the top share in connectors' markets in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, according to a November report by consultancy Connector Supplier.

Curtin has not yet served in a China-specific role, but it is a market too big to ignore. TE's sales in China have seen meteoric growth. The China market now accounts for almost 20 percent of TE's global revenue. The figure is projected to rise to 25 percent or more in the next five years, he said.

"When I first landed in Shanghai's Hongqiao International Airport almost two decades ago, TE had only one plant and some 100 engineers. Today, TE has almost 15 facilities and 2,000 engineers, serving not just the China market but global markets as well," he said.

According to Curtin, TE can be best described as an "enabler". Its products are not visible everywhere, but they power solutions and technologies that people rely on and take for granted.

For instance, TE helped a Chinese network equipment provider to improve the overall performance of its products, by increasing the network communications bandwidth to 400G from 100G (It's a measurement of data transfer rate per unit time). China's telecom infrastructure is counted among the best in the world.

In the rail market, TE is working with a mix of local partners, including Chinese railway and metro developers, to harmonize connectivity across different high-voltage power systems.

This is thanks to its strategic presence in harsh-environment products, which are found inside vehicles, and in factory-floor equipment and appliances.

Acquisitions played a big role in beefing up that portfolio, and helped drive harsh-environment products to reach almost 80 percent of the company's total sales. Last year, TE bought out Intercontec Group to help bolster niche market offerings in the harsh-environment category, specifically for factory automation customers.

But the most promising sector in China is transportation, he said. Government support for electric vehicles has given fresh momentum to TE's business, thanks to stricter emission requirements and high demand for efficient energy-saving solutions.

For example, TE's solutions can help manage the flow of power in and around the vehicle battery, and outside its pack. Its charging solutions also allow customers to meter their e-vehicle's electricity consumption, and communicate data via smart charging cords and inlets.

The projection that China is set to mass-produce millions of e-vehicles in 10 years, including hybrid and pure electric models, heartens TE. "After all, our mission is to enable a safer, more sustainable, more productive and more connected world."

Curtin said TE would harness the opportunity in China. He is aware the country is shifting from an energy-guzzling, investment-led economy to one that is more sustainable and innovation-driven.

He draws encouragement from the Belt and Road Initiative, which he said presents huge opportunities for the likes of TE that provide connectivity products and sensors to sectors like energy, infrastructure, railway and information technology.

"The many infrastructure projects related to the initiative will enhance connectivity across Asia, Europe and Africa. I believe companies like TE will have more opportunities to participate in the initiative and contribute to its success," he said.

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