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Akzo Nobel issues profit warning, CFO to step aside

  • The Dutch company, citing cost inflation and currency headwinds, said it would not achieve the 100 million euros ($121 million) in 2017 operating profit it promised
  • In May the company rejected a 26.3 billion euro takeover by U.S. rival PPG Industries, an offer worth 95 euros per share

Akzo Nobel issued a profit warning on Friday and announced a revamp that will include the chief financial officer stepping aside and a shake-up to its paints and industrial coatings businesses.

The Dutch company, citing cost inflation and currency headwinds, said it would not achieve the 100 million euros ($121 million) in 2017 operating profit it promised when rejecting a recent takeover.

In May the company rejected a 26.3 billion euro takeover by U.S. rival PPG Industries, an offer worth 95 euros per share. Akzo shares were down 2.9 percent at 76.4 euros in early trade on Friday.

Akzo said CFO Maelys Castella would take a leave of absence due to health reasons and return "in a senior management position" when she is better.

Castella will be replaced on a temporary basis by group controller Hans De Vriese.

CEO Ton Buechner in July also quit for health reasons. "It is extraordinary that these cases follow each other so rapidly, but it is purely coincidental. They are for entirely different reasons, and are in no way related," Chairman Antony Burgmans said on a call with reporters.

New CEO Thierry Vanlancker will meet with shareholders on Friday to defend the company's strategy following a court order to repair relations damaged under Buechner and Burgmans.

Shareholders led by Elliott Advisors sued Akzo for the right to hold a shareholders meeting to vote on expelling Burgmans for mismanagement.

Dutch courts twice rejected shareholders requests, but instructed the company to repair relations, leading to Friday's shareholders meeting and a loose promise from Burgmans to step down when his term ends in April 2018.

Revamp

In rejecting the PPG takeover Akzo Nobel pledged to pursue is own sale of its Specialty Chemicals Division which represents a third of the company's sales and profit.

Under a reorganization announced on Friday, Akzo said it will realign management along four geographical lines for paints and there will be four "integrated coatings business units" resumably by product line, although the company did not elaborate.

Vanlancker said headwinds such as higher raw material costs were having "a wider and greater impact as the year continues" and the company was raising prices and cutting costs in response.

Akzo remains on course to meet 2020 financial targets announced in April, he said, including reaching a 15 percent return on sales, though analysts have been skeptical about these targets.