Champagne flows as Sika's independence is assured

In a hastily arranged press conference last week, at which ice-cold champagne was served, the chairman of the board of the Baar-based Sika speciality chemicals manufacturing company, Paul Hälg, and its CEO, Paul Schuler, announced that the company would remain independent and not come under the control of the Paris-based Saint-Gobain Group, bringing to an end a dispute which has been going on for three and a half years.

Speaking in his capacity as chairman and CEO of the Saint-Gobain Group, Pierre André de Chalendar said the conflict had ended with a most positive outcome and to the mutual benefit of all parties involved. After acquiring 10.75 per cent of the shares previously owned by the Schenker-Winkler Holding, i.e. members of the proprietorial Burkard family, for CHF 3.22 billion, Saint-Gobain becomes Sika’s largest shareholder. However, the French company has agreed to waive any voting rights and is no longer insisting on representation on the board. Among other conditions, Saint Gobain has to hold on to these shares for at least two years and, should any more be issued in the coming six years, Sika will have the first option to buy. Furthermore, Saint Gobain will not be allowed to attempt a takeover by any other route such as acquiring shares from other shareholders during this same period, either.

It has naturally come as great relief to both sides that all legal proceedings will come to an end, the cost of these alone put at over CHF 50 million. As can be imagined, the uncertain situation which prevailed for such a long time for Sika was tantamount to it having to apply brakes, a number of planned takeovers not able to come to fruition, as Schuler confirmed. For management, too, the situation had been very onerous with many free weekends having to be given up to discuss defence strategies, not to mention increased difficulties in being able to recruit core staff.

As the journalist who wrote this piece in the economics section of the Zuger Zeitung mentioned, it is nothing short of a miracle that, despite this huge hostile takeover cloud hanging over it for so long, Sika has managed to increase its revenues by an average of seven per cent per year. Indeed, Schuler is looking to further growth in the coming years.

It was also announced that the three representatives of the now former proprietorial family, namely Jürgen Tinggren, Willi Leimer and Urs F. Burkard, have already relinquished their seats on Sika’s board. Speaking after the announcement, the latter said the primary concern of the family had always been to ensure Sika’s long-term success and prosperity.

As to the future between Sika and Saint-Gobain, according to the former’s website, both companies “intend to continue their substantial existing business relationship and seek to expand it to areas of mutual benefit while preserving and respecting each group’s economic and legal independence”.        

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