By Mark Maurer
The finance chief of Johnson Controls International PLC is retiring, creating an opening for an executive who can refine the company's recent transition into a pure-play provider of building-efficiency products and services after shedding other business lines.
The Cork, Ireland-based industrial and technology conglomerate said Thursday it named CFO Brian Stief to the additional post of vice chairman ahead of his planned retirement as finance chief at the end of 2020.
The board will begin an external search for a successor, the company said. Mr. Stief, who has been CFO since 2014, will continue his duties as finance chief while, as vice chairman, advising Chairman and Chief Executive George Oliver. Mr. Stief is expected to assist in the search for his successor, a company spokesman said.
Mr. Stief was focused on overhauling the company following a 2016 merger with Tyco International PLC, a maker of fire-protection and security products, by reconfiguring the operating structure and paying down debt.
Mr. Stief also helped lead the sales of the company's automotive-seating business to Adient PLC in 2016 and its automotive-battery business to a group led by Brookfield Business Partners LP in 2018.
Shedding those units allowed Johnson Controls to concentrate on building-efficiency products, systems and services involving heating and air conditioning.
"George [Oliver] will now step back and think about how to bring in a new CFO who will be in essence a COO," said Nick Heymann, co-group head of global industry infrastructure at investment bank William Blair & Co.
Mr. Stief's successor would have a different mission as the company moves to tackle a new phase of growth, analysts said. That would involve expanding the predictive capabilities of its data analytics and boosting revenue for the services division, which provides maintenance and repairs related to ventilation, cooling, security and fire safety for buildings, Mr. Heymann said.
The company's services business had $6.07 billion in 2018 revenue, while the larger products and systems division had $25.33 billion. The services unit's revenue stayed relatively flat in 2018 from the year earlier.
That division has the potential to be a large driver of margin expansion and cash-flow stability, as a result of winning contracts to provide heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems for airports and stadiums, said Brian Bernard, equity analyst at financial-services firm Morningstar Inc.
The company's fiscal fourth-quarter net sales climbed 1.5% to $6.27 billion from the same quarter last year, missing analyst expectations, the company reported Thursday.
Johnson Controls' shares closed down 4.4% to $42.41 on Thursday.
Write to Mark Maurer at email@example.com