March 20, 2017 / 5:01 PM / 6 months ago

Dutch provinces oppose Akzo Nobel takeover, fear job losses

FILE PHOTO: AkzoNobel's logo is seen in Amsterdam, Netherlands, February 16, 2012. REUTERS/Robin van Lonkhuijsen/United Photos/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Four Dutch provincial governments said on Monday they were opposed to a takeover of paints and coatings maker Akzo Nobel (AKZO.AS) due to potential job losses, in a sign of the challenges facing the company’s U.S. suitor.

On March 9, Akzo Nobel rejected a $22 billion takeover proposal from PPG Industries (PPG.N), which analysts now expect to return with a higher offer.

Economic Affairs Minister Henk Kamp of the governing VVD Party - known as the most pro-business party in the country - said then the takeover would not be “in the interest of the Netherlands.”

That was shortly before elections on March 15 in which national identity and anti-foreign sentiment played a prominent role. The VVD Party is now expected to lead to a new government.

In a joint statement published on Monday, the four provinces of Gelderland, Overijssel, Groningen and Zuid Holland - where Akzo has its biggest research and development facilities as well as several factories - said they expected a new proposal from PPG and that they would oppose it.

“This takeover would put 5,000 jobs at risk in the provinces,” the four provincial governors said in a statement.

“Akzo belongs in the provinces.”

After its rejection, PPG said it was “still confident in its ability to execute and complete the proposed transaction.”

Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands’ left-leaning Labour party, has called for expanding a proposed law giving the national government power to block telecommunications sector takeovers to include all industries.

The country’s main business and employers’ association VNO-NCW said in a statement before the election it did not want “new far-reaching protective measures by the government”.

However, chairman Hans de Boer said the organization was “concerned” about proposals to take over Akzo Nobel and an offer in February by Kraft Heinz for Unilever, which was also rejected.

“The buying parties may pose a threat to the unique position Dutch companies hold at the forefront of sustainability and long term value creation,” he said.

The VNO-NCW wants to engage the country’s new cabinet - which may not be formed for several months - in a dialogue as to whether current protections from takeovers are sufficient.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Potter

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