ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss steelmaker Schmolz+Bickenbach’s chairman acknowledged that Russian tycoon Viktor Vekselberg had won a long-running power struggle over the indebted firm, in a statement published in a newspaper on Sunday.
“There will be a new general meeting and a new board of directors with (Vekselberg’s) Renova as dominating shareholder. I will be gone then,” Chairman Hans-Rudolf Zehnder told Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Sonntag.
Schmolz+Bickenbach could not immediately be reached for comment.
Vekselberg, through investment vehicle Renova, acquired a 20.46 percent stake in Schmolz+Bickenbach on Friday from the group Schmolz+Bickenbach GmbH Co KG (S+B KG), descendents of the company’s founders who have been fighting with the board of directors over a restructuring for months.
Renova and S+B KG now hold a combined stake of 40.46 percent, which forces Vekselberg under Swiss law to submit an offer to buy the remaining shares in Schmolz+Bickenbach. Renova said it did not want to increase its stake further and hoped existing shareholders would keep their shares.
S+B KG said on Saturday the commercial registry office in Lucerne had granted its request to block any new entries to the steelmaker’s share register with regard to decisions taken at Friday’s shareholder meeting.
That means the board of directors and re-elected chairman Zehnder will not be able to execute a 330 million Swiss franc ($348.8 million) rights issue approved by shareholders on Friday.
Another major shareholder in Schmolz+Bickenbach, board member Gerold Buettiker’s Gebuka, had obtained a court order ahead of the shareholder meeting, allowing S+B KG to only vote with 20.46 percent of shares instead of the 40.46 percent it owned at the time because the remaining 20 percent are tied into a shareholders’ agreement with Gebuka.
S+B KG said the fact it could only vote with about half of its shares had a decisive influence on the outcome of the shareholders’ votes on Friday.
($1 = 0.9462 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; editing by Jane Baird)