New Akzo Nobel boss pursues $30 billion cope with Axalta

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AMSTERDAM/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Dutch paints maker Akzo Nobel (AKZO.AS), searching for to get better after rejecting a takeover supply and issuing two revenue warnings, is discussing a merger with smaller U.S. rival Axalta Coating Programs Ltd (AXTA.N) to create a $30 billion firm.

FILE PHOTO: Normal view of the skin of AkzoNobel’s new paint manufacturing facility in Ashington, Britain September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Akzo, the maker of Dulux paint, mentioned on Monday it was in “constructive talks” a couple of “merger of equals” in what could be the primary main deal by Chief Govt Thierry Vanlancker, who took over in July after Akzo spurned a 26 billion euro ($30.2 billion) supply from U.S. rival PPG Industries (PPG.N).

Reuters reported on Friday that Akzo had approached Axalta a couple of potential merger, sending Axalta’s shares 17 p.c larger. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) is the biggest Axalta investor with a stake of just below 10 p.c.

“This appears a basic attack-is-the-best-defense technique,” mentioned a fund supervisor at one in all Akzo’s top-10 buyers who requested to not be named.

“Akzo overpromised after defending their very own firm and began to fail to ship in Q3, so (they) must do one thing transformational,” he added.

At 19.5 billion euros ($22.7 billion), Akzo’s market worth is shut to 3 instances that of Axalta at $Eight.1 billion at Friday’s closing value of $33.15.

Even after the deliberate sale of its chemical compounds divisions, valued at Eight-10 billion euros, the Dutch group would tower over its potential companion, suggesting a lead position that usually ends in a premium being supplied to the junior companion.

Akzo mentioned plans to divest the chemical compounds unit remained on observe and a “overwhelming majority” of internet proceeds from the deal could be returned to shareholders.

Axalta’s coatings for brand spanking new autos may fill a niche in Akzo’s portfolio, which caters to varied different industries together with manufacturing, marine and building, analysts have mentioned.

STIRRING THE POT

The comparatively fragmented international paints and coatings business has seen a frenzy of deal exercise, as patrons search scale to squeeze their uncooked supplies invoice to additional bolster already engaging margins.

PPG’s aborted transfer for Akzo adopted BASF offers (BASFn.DE) final yr, promoting its industrial coatings enterprise to Akzo and shopping for Albemarle’s (ALB.N) surface-treatment unit Chemetall for $three.2 billion to deal with automotive coatings.

Earlier than that, Sherwin-Williams (SHW.N) snatched up rival U.S. paint firm Valspar in an all-cash deal valued at about $9.three billion.

The mooted mixture would make Akzo the second-largest coatings participant with a 12 p.c market share, forward of PPG however trailing an enlarged Sherwin Williams, analysts at brokerage Raymond James mentioned.

Vanlancker has been pressured to chop targets made within the warmth of the takeover battle twice within the area of six weeks, blaming disruption attributable to hurricane Harvey, rising uncooked supplies prices and “headwinds” at its marine coatings enterprise.

Akzo shares have been zero.5 p.c larger at 77.89 euros at 1120 GMT, effectively under a determine of round 96 euros proposed by PPG.

PRESSURE TO DELIVER

Analyst Joost van Beek of Theodoor Gilissen mentioned that in negotiations over monetary phrases, Axalta would search to make the most of Akzo being below stress to bulk up.

Analysts at Bernstein, in flip, careworn the strategic rationale, saying in a word the Akzo-Axalta merger “would enhance scale and density in segments and nations the place wanted whereas taking out prices, almost certainly within the fragmented common industrial phase and in Europe”.

They forecast financial savings of round 250 million euros from combining operations.

Akzo wouldn’t touch upon how the deal may very well be structured, although describing it as a merger suggests it might pay largely with shares.

Sources acquainted with the matter instructed Reuters on Friday that talks have been at an early stage and there was no assure the businesses would come to an settlement.

Akzo has gone by way of tumultuous instances of late.

After PPG’s strategy was fended off, a gaggle of shareholders launched a court docket case searching for a vote to have Chairman Antony Burgmans eliminated, however misplaced.

Akzo’s CEO and CFO then resigned, citing well being causes, whereas Burgmans is because of retire subsequent yr.

PPG has indicated it’s now not all for attempting to purchase Akzo. After strolling away from the deal on June 1, it’s barred from rebidding for Akzo till Dec. 1.

Personal fairness agency Carlyle Group LP (CG.O), Axalta’s former proprietor, had thought of promoting the corporate to Akzo in 2014 earlier than taking it public. ($1 = zero.8600 euros)

Further reporting by Simon Jessop in London and Bart H. Meijer in Amsterdam; Modifying by Louise Heavens and Keith Weir

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