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Holcim and Lafarge boards seal merger deal

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Holcim and Lafarge boards seal merger deal
Photo: AFP
09:38 CEST+02:00
The boards of France's Lafarge and Switzerland's Holcim have approved Eric Olsen for the role of chief executive officer once the firms merge, creating the world's biggest cement company, they announced on Thursday.

The 51-year-old French-American national, who is currently executive vice president for operations at Lafarge, "is the perfect person to lead the company in the future," Holcim chairman Wolfgang Reitzle told reporters.
   
Last year the two companies announced plans to create a cement titan employing more than 130,000 people, which would generate annual sales of 32 billion euros ($34 billion) and underlying profits of 6.5 billion euros — a major event in the global construction industry.
   
The merger still must be approved by two-thirds of shareholders at each of the two companies at special general assemblies.
   
In March the two companies renegotiated the exchange ratio for the merger — nine Holcim shares for 10 Lafarge shares — after the sharp rise in the Swiss franc drove up Holcim's value.
   
Analysts with Vontobel warned Thursday that "recent news flow regarding the shareholders opposition" to the merger indicated the chance of the deal going through had dropped to just 50 percent from its previous estimate of 75 percent.
   
Lafarge chief Bruno Lafont however voiced optimism the merger would go through, stressing that "this nomination (of Olsen) is a large, key milestone before the shareholders decision."
   
Olsen, he told reporters, had "the right personality to conduct the group to success."
   
Olsen himself said Thursday the merged company, if approved, would be headquartered in Switzerland's financial capital of Zurich.
   
He and his family would also be based in the city near the Alps, he said, which was good since "I love skiing."
   
Following Thursday's announcement Holcim saw its share price jump 1.85 percent to 74.35 Swiss francs a piece in mid-morning trading, as the Swiss stock exchange's main SMI index rose just over one percent.

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