Kuehne + Nagel group chief executive Reinhard Lange is to step down in May. The news came as the firm reported a dip in European EBITDA and turnover due to intense margin pressure.

Although his replacement has not yet been found, a management team under K+N International chairman Karl Gernandt will take over Lange’s responsibilities from 7 May.

Lange, who is stepping down for health reasons, will then continue in a consultancy role until his contract is terminated on 31 December.

Kuehne + Nagel's turnover in Europe was down 1% at the end of the 2012 financial year to CHF 13.4bn (£9.4bn). The operator said this was due to “restrained consumer and investment spending in large parts of Europe”.

European EBITDA was also down 15% to Swiss Francs (CHF) 474m, compared to CHF 564m during the same period in 2011.

Volume growth slowed down in the second half of 2012, due to “further deterioration in the economy, particularly in southern Europe”.

Margin pressure

Lange, who has held his current position since 2009, said: “Kuehne + Nagel managed to increase its volumes in all business units, but was not able to compensate margin pressure and higher costs with the volume growth achieved, thus results decreased compared to the previous year.”

The firm plans to realign its management and organisational structures “to react more quickly and efficiently to market demands and growth potentials”.

Gernandt will work together with business unit heads in Road & Rail Logistics, Seafreight, Airfreight and Contract Logistics to achieve this.

Lange added: “We did not manage to adjust our costs in a timely manner everywhere; as a result we had to experience setbacks in profitability in several countries.”

The firm's group EBITDA was down 6% to CHF 921m, while group turnover was up from CHF 19.5bn to CHF 20.7bn from 2011.