Akzo Shareholders OK Specialty Chemicals Split

01.12.2017 -

By a vote of 99.9%, AkzoNobel shareholders attending the company’s extraordinary general meeting in Amsterdam on Nov. 30 approved the proposed separation of the Specialty Chemicals division, a move described by CEO Thierry Vanlancker as “essential” for further growth.

The vote gives management the flexibility to either demerge the business from the remaining paints and coatings portfolio or sell it outright, a so-called dual track strategy.  The chemicals arm has annual sales of €4.8 billion and more than 9,000 employees.

A demerger would involve the complete split of the existing company into two listed units, with shareholders receiving shares one for one.

AkzoNobel said earlier it expected to set the stage for the complete separation of the chemicals division by April 2018. The plans were first unveiled by former CEO Ton Büchner at the height of the paints and coatings producer’s pushback against the unfriendly €26 billion hostile takeover bid by US rival PPG last spring.

The Dutch company said binding offers for Specialty Chemicals are due in the first quarter of next year and that both this and the coatings business are expected to have investment grade ratings.

Management has promised to return “the vast majority” of the net proceeds from the separation to shareholders. Even before the business is put on the sale block, a special cash dividend of €1 billion will be paid out on Dec. 7.

At the out-of-turn meeting, called originally at the behest of activist investor Elliott Advisors, AkzoNobel shareholders approved the appointment of new chief financial officer, Maarten de Vries, as a member of the managing board with effect from Jan. 1, 2018.

Three new supervisory board members, Patrick Thomas, currently CEO of German engineering plastics producer Covestro, Sue Clark, a former executive with UK brewing and beverage company SABMiller, and Michiel Jaski, CEO of commercial real estate firm Officefirst Immobilien also were also confirmed.