* CEO, chairman changes set for May 2014
* Matthew Taylor to replace CEO Bart De Graeve
* Bekaert hit by Asian competition, sawing wire market crash
* Seeks improved operating margin
BRUSSELS, Aug 27 Steel cable and wire maker
Bekaert is banking on a new chief executive to restore
profits and a share price that have been hollowed out by Asian
The Belgian company, whose steel wire reinforces a quarter
of the world's automotive tyres, on Tuesday named Malcolm Taylor
to take over from Bert De Graeve, the CEO since 2006 who will
replace chairman Baron Paul Buysse.
Bekaert is facing fierce competition, particularly from
Asian peers such as Xingda, and its market for sawing
wire used to make solar panels has collapsed since Chinese
rivals ramped up capacity.
Some 70 percent of its market value has been eroded since
its peak in 2011, prompting a restructuring designed to cut
1,850 jobs and save around 100 million euros a year.
Bekaert, a pioneer of steel cord in the 1960s, has pledged
to raise its operating margin to between 7 and 9 percent. Even
with far better than expected first-half results, the result
largely of the restructuring, the margin was just 5.4 percent.
"Restoring profitability, that is THE challenge," said
Wouter Vanderhaegen, analyst at KBC Securities.
Bekaert's shares were down 5.4 percent at 26.335 euros at
1300 GMT, making them among the greatest fallers in a broadly
weaker Euronext Brussels market.
Analysts said they were surprised to learn that De Graeve
would be stepping down as CEO, although he will stay on at the
company as chairman, with a far more active remit than most.
Filip De Pauw, analyst at ING, said he had expected De
Graeve to carry on for a couple of years, with no indication of
a planned departure.
"The shares have been hit hard today, but they have
outperformed in past weeks and months. It's difficult to believe
its related to today's news," he said.
Bekaert said in a statement Taylor, a 53 year-old Briton,
would become CEO designate next week and take over fully next
May, subject to shareholder approval.
Taylor was managing director of Land Rover when it was part
of Ford Motor Company before joining JC Bamford Excavators Ltd
where he became chief executive in 2008.
He was CEO of Edwards Group, a vacuum pump
specialist, from 2010 until February 2013. Edwards was bought by
Atlas Copco earlier this month.
Buysse said Bekaert wanted a transparent and smooth
"He (Taylor) brings a strong international background and
knowledge of industrial and high technology."