December 4, 2017 / 10:42 PM / 12 days ago

Clariant open to M&A deals as it deals with activist: CEO

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss specialty chemicals group Clariant (CLN.S) is open to making fresh acquisitions as it deals with activist investor White Tale, its biggest shareholder, Chief Executive Hariolf Kottmann said in an interview with a local broadcaster on Monday.

White Tale derailed Clariant’s planned $20 billion merger with U.S.-based Huntsman HUN.S in October, after fighting it for months on the grounds it would destroy shareholder value.

Last week, White Tale said it would take its demands directly to Clariant’s shareholders after the group snubbed its request for an independent strategic review and three seats on its board of directors.

Asked in an interview with Swiss broadcaster SRF if he was seeking a different takeover target, Kottmann said: “I would leave this open this evening. We are trying to be more profitable and more innovative, to grow faster, and this of course includes portfolio measures such as acquisitions or divestments.”

With a Clariant stake above 20 percent, White Tale has stepped up its fight for influence over the Swiss group, but Kottmann has kept it at arm’s length.

“What it wants is either tactical or for its own benefit,” he said, although he said he was open for more talks.

White Tale, whose principals include hedge fund manager Keith Meister and New York investment firm 40 North’s David Winter and David Millstone, has called itself a long-term investor keen to help shape Clariant’s future.

    Kottmann questioned that in the TV interview.

    “I think the activist shareholder seeks an exit, and it has to find this exit itself or we offer one for them,” he said. Clariant has shown it has a proven strategy, but has to sharpen this in the months ahead, he said.

    He played down prospects that Clariant could seek a white knight to buy the group, saying it had developed well as an independent company and had options to generate value.

    Reporting by Michael Shields, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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