(Adds shareholder, analyst comments)
By Christine Murray and Gabriela Lopez
MONTERREY May 15 Mexico's Cemex
, one of the world's leading cement makers, on Thursday
promoted Chief Financial Officer Fernando Gonzalez to chief
executive, signaling continuity after the sudden death of
Lorenzo Zambrano earlier this week.
Rogelio Zambrano Lozano, 57, board member since 1987 and a
cousin of the late CEO, will take over as chairman of the board,
Cemex added in a statement, as the company separates the dual
roles that Lorenzo Zambrano held.
"Excellent decisions," a top-20 shareholder in Cemex, who
asked not to be identified, said on Thursday. "Gonzalez is very
good and Zambrano is an excellent board member who will
represent the shareholders well."
Questions had swirled this week after Lorenzo Zambrano, who
ran the company for three decades, died of natural causes at age
70 in Madrid on Monday, leaving no public succession plan.
He transformed Cemex into a modern multinational and one of
Mexico's biggest listed companies with a presence on five
But the company has struggled with large debts and
cost-cutting since Zambrano's ill-timed $16 billion takeover of
Australian rival Rinker in 2007, when the U.S. housing market
was already months into a downturn.
Gonzalez, 59, joined the company in 1989, and was closely
involved in and damaged by the Rinker acquisition.
But Gonzalez, who has worked all over the world, is seen by
analysts as a key figure in Cemex's debt refinancing and its
slow path to health.
"Cemex's strategy has been maintained for many years and it
will continue to be maintained," said Gonzalez on Wednesday
after attending a mass honoring the late CEO, referring to the
cement maker's international presence.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Carlos Peyrelongue
welcomed the appointment, pointing to Gonzalez's ample
experience with company operations.
"It makes a lot of sense and he will give continuity to the
company strategy," he said.
Cemex was founded by Lorenzo Zambrano's grandfather, but it
was Lorenzo who turned it into an international company with a
broad investor base through a series of acquisitions. He had a
small stake in the company that went public in Mexico in 1976
and listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999.
In 2006, Zambrano was among Mexico's wealthiest people,
worth an estimated $1.8 billion. But his fortune tumbled after
the Rinker purchase and he fell off Forbes' richest list.
The company's share price has fallen nearly 3 percent since
Lorenzo Zambrano's nephew Ian Armstrong Zambrano was also
named as a new board member, subject to shareholder approval,
the company statement said.
(Reporting by Christine Murray and Gabriela Lopez; Writing by
Alexandra Alper; Editing by Simon Gardner and Ken Wills)