July 4, 2018 / 8:12 AM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-LafargeHolcim appoints new Middle East boss

(Adds detail on Syria, managers from Sika, background)

ZURICH, July 4 (Reuters) - Cement maker LafargeHolcim appointed a new manager for its Middle East Africa business on Wednesday, a week after saying French prosecutors would investigate predecessor Lafarge SA over payments to militants to guard a factory in Syria.

Chief Executive Jan Jenisch continued his reshuffle of bosses at the world’s biggest cement maker by naming another manager from his ex-employer, building materials maker Sika .

Miljan Gutovic, who joined from Sika in March as head of marketing and innovation, will run the Middle East Africa business, LafargeHolcim said.

Jenisch has also enlisted former Sika managers Jamie Gentoso and Mario Gross to run the company’s U.S. cement and Malaysian businesses, respectively.

“In his previous roles, (Gutovic) has developed and executed successful growth strategies and brings an in-depth experience of the region,” Jenisch said in a statement.

Saad Sebbar, the previous Middle East Africa head and a Lafarge employee since 1997, has opted to “pursue opportunities outside of the company”, LafargeHolcim said.

LafargeHolcim has cited challenging conditions in countries including Algeria, Iraq and Nigeria as hurting its business in the region, which in the first quarter reported falling sales and operating profit.

The company last year admitted predecessor Lafarge SA had paid armed groups to guard a factory in Syria between 2011 and 2014, prior to the merger that created LafargeHolcim in 2015.

Last week it said Lafarge SA had been placed under formal investigation by French prosecutors over the matter. A company spokesman said there was no indication how long the investigation would last, but the company expected no material financial impact from the proceedings.

Jenisch, who took over as CEO last September, has set out plans to cut costs, sell assets and focus on fewer markets in March after the company announced a $4 billion write-off.

Reporting by John Miller; editing by Jason Neely

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