* Seifi Ghasemi to replace John McGlade
* Shares rise as much as 8 percent
(Adds closing stock price, Breakingviews link)
By Kanika Sikka
June 18 Industrial gas producer Air Products &
Chemicals Inc named Seifi Ghasemi as chief executive,
amid pressure from Bill Ackman to overhaul its management,
sending its shares up 8 percent to a record high.
Ghasemi, who resigned as CEO of Rockwood Holdings Inc
to accept his role in Air Products, is known for
successfully executing deals.
"His hiring could signal that APD may be open to
divestitures," Oppenheimer & Co analyst Edward Yang said in a
note to investors.
Under Ghasemi, Rockwood recently sold its ceramics business
and is in the process of selling its paint pigment unit to
Huntsman Corp. The company also recently bought a 49
percent stake in Talison Lithium Pty Ltd for $475 million.
Activist investors have called Air Products, one of the
largest industrial gas companies, to divest volatile units.
Suntrust Robinson Humphrey analyst James Sheehan, however,
said divesture may not be as large a part of Ghasemi's strategy
as it was at Rockwood. "I think it will be more about
operational execution and discipline on capital spending."
Activist investor Ackman has been saying Air Products was
undervalued and was underperforming its peers. His Pershing
Square Capital Management is the largest shareholder of the
company with a 6.7 percent stake.
Ackman has pushed for a new management at Air Products,
saying hiring the right CEO can double the stock's price in the
next few years.
Air Products announced the resignation of CEO John McGlade
last September and appointed three independent directors,
"I think it was incorrectly presumed (in September)... that
he (Ghasemi) wasn't going to become the CEO, even though he was
the best candidate," UBS Analyst John Roberts said.
It is safe to assume he is relatively well familiar with Air
Products' business, Roberts said.
Pershing Square's spokesman declined to comment on
Ghasemi was a senior executive at industrial gas company BOC
Group, a company that Air Products unsuccessfully attempted to
take over in 2000. BOC was later acquired by Linde AG.
The mechanical engineer from Stanford University, known for
his industry knowledge, has also worked with British industrial
company GKN Plc.
Ghasemi, currently on the boards of battery maker EnerSys
and specialty chemicals company Chemetall GmbH, will
receive an annual base salary of $1.2 million, Air Products said
in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.
Air Product's shares rose 7.5 percent to close at $130.72,
after touching a high of $131.48, on the New York Stock Exchange
Shares of Rockwood, which appointed Chief Financial Officer
Robert Zatta acting CEO, were down 3.5 percent at $73.31.
(Editing by Joyjeet Das)