LafargeHolcim CEO faces 'day of reckoning' after share slide

Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:47am EDT
 
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By John Miller and Oliver Hirt

ZURICH (Reuters) - Top shareholders in LafargeHolcim (LHN.S: Quote) are backing Chief Executive Eric Olsen despite a share plunge of nearly half since France's Lafarge and Switzerland's Holcim merged last July to create the world's biggest cement maker.

The stock has shed around 20 billion Swiss francs ($21 billion), hitting its biggest investors, Swiss billionaire Thomas Schmidheiny and investment holding Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL).

Both have defended a merger they helped engineer, arguing its span across 90 countries will help the company ride out regional slowdowns while combining their networks will allow it to return cash to shareholders.

Schmidheiny once predicted the shares, post-merger, would top 100 francs; they now trade just above 40, off a record low of 33.29 francs hit in February.

"Despite all the difficulties, I am convinced that Eric Olsen and his team will reach the ambitious targets," Schmidheiny, who holds 11 percent of shares, told Reuters.

GBL managing director Gerard Lamarche said he does not let share volatility dictate how he manages the nearly 10 percent LafargeHolcim stake owned by the fund of the billionaire Frere and Desmarais families. He urges patience.

"It is evident that a merger of that scale is not completed in one year," Lamarche said.

Convincing skeptics has been difficult, especially with rivals on the upswing.   Continued...

 
LafargeHolcim's CEO Eric Olsen smiles during an interview with Reuters in Zurich Switzerland, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann