Akzo Exits Axalta Talks, Nippon Paint in?

23.11.2017 -

Coatings rivals AkzoNobel of the Netherlands and US-based Axalta have ended their talks about a potential multibillion merger to create what they had said would be “a leading global player.”

Back to back with a statement by the Dutch group confirming speculation that the bilateral negotiations had ended, Axalta acknowledged an all-cash offer from Japanese coatings producer Nippon Paint. No further details had emerged at press time.

Following the breakdown of talks, CEO Thierry Vanlancker said Akzo will continue to focus on its strategy of accelerating sustainable growth and profitability, adding that it remains committed to its earlier financial guidance of a 15% return on sales and a 25% return on investment up to 2020.

Vanlacker commented that the separation of the Specialty Chemicals business – scheduled for April 2018 –  and the return to shareholders of the “vast majority” of the net proceeds from a sale remains on track.

For Axalta, CEO Charles W. Shaver said the US player had concluded it could not negotiate a deal with Akzo that would have met its criteria of generating long-term value for its shareholders superior to the continued execution of its strategic plan.

In financial markets, the consensus seemed to be that the Akzo-Axalta talks had been aimed at distracting another US coatings producer, PPG, from launching second takeover bid.

After walking away from its nearly €27 billion offer in June, over massive opposition from Amsterdam, PPG could come back in December. However, the news agency Reuters said the US producer had signaled it was no longer interested.

The Dutch group also has repeatedly locked horns with the European subsidiary of US hedge fund, Elliot Management, which had pushed the deal with PPG. As of late summer, Elliott was AkzoNobel’s largest shareholder with a 9.5% stake.

A merger between Akzo and Axalta, according to some calculations, would have created the $130 billion global coatings market’s new leader, with a 12% global share and an enterprise value of around $30 billion. Following earlier M&A rounds, PPG is seen to be the clear leader, followed by Sherwin Williams.

At the time the Dutch-American talks were confirmed in late October, many commentators said they thought that the deal might fail, due the unequal size of the prospective partners. AkzoNobel’s decorative paints and performance chemicals businesses together had sales of €9.5 billion (around $11 billion) in 2016, while Axalta reported total revenue of $4.1 billion.