Saint-Gobain sells Sika stake, formally ending bitter takeover battle

ZURICH (Reuters) - Saint-Gobain SGOB.PA has sold its stake in Swiss construction chemicals maker Sika SIKA.S, the French company said on Wednesday, netting it 1.54 billion euros ($1.69 billion) and formally ending one of Europe's most bitter takeover battles.

The Swiss chemical group Sika company logo is pictured on a bag of SikaTop in their training center in Le Bourget near Paris, France May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Attempts to unseat Sika’s board and blocking directors’ pay were among the tactics deployed by Saint-Gobain’s allies during its campaign, which began in 2014 when it announced a deal to buy the controlling stake of Sika’s founding family.

Sika’s board opposed the deal, saying it saw no advantage from becoming part of a French conglomerate while other shareholders were being disadvantaged. The family’s stake had special voting rights that gave it control.

Sika investors, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also opposed the takeover. The tussle was fought out during long and expensive court cases.

A truce emerged in 2018 when Saint-Gobain, the family’s Schenker-Winkler Holding and Sika came to an agreement which gave Saint-Gobain 10.75% of Sika’s shares, but not control.

The deal was subject to a two-year stock lockup, which elapsed this month.

Saint-Gobain sold 15.2 million shares through a private placement to institutional investors for 2.56 billion Swiss francs ($2.64 billion). The deal meant it made a profit of 1.54 billion euros since May 2018. [nFWN2D80VW]

The cash would strengthen its balance sheet and increase liquidity amid the market uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Sika did not exercise its option to buy the shares because it wanted to keep its options open for acquisitions.

“It was in the common interest of Sika and Saint-Gobain to have a successful placement of the shares,” a Sika spokesman said.

“We are pleased that this is the final end of the takeover attempt. The final chapter has now been written and we can now move forwards.”

($1 = 0.9093 euros)

($1 = 0.9687 Swiss francs)

Reporting by John Revill, editing by Pritha Sarkar