Saint-Gobain never approached Lafarge

Saint-Gobain never approached Lafarge
Published: 19 November 2007

French building materials group Saint-Gobain said on Friday it had never approached cement giant Lafarge  about a possible merger and reaffirmed its commitment to sell its packaging unit in 2008.

"We do not share the same industrial logic ... Saint-Gobain in its genes has always been a diversified group ... Their (Lafarge’s) strategy is cement, cement, cement," Benoit Bazin said on the sidelines of a shareholder trade fair in Paris on Friday.

Asked whether Saint-Gobain had ever approached Lafarge to discuss a possible merger, Bazin answered: "No."

Rumors of a tie-up between the two groups have been recurrent and were rekindled last week when French newspaper Le Figaro reported, citing sources, that Saint-Gobain had approached Lafarge to discuss a deal.

Lafarge has refused to comment.

The latest speculation coincided with the recent arrival of French investment firm Wendel (MWDP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) as a shareholder in Saint-Gobain. Wendel has built a stake of around 16.5 percent, becoming the Paris-based group’s biggest shareholder.

Bazin said Wendel had so far not asked for board seats.

"At this stage Wendel has not asked to be represented on the board, but it retains the right (to do so)," he said.

Bazin also said Saint-Gobain remained committed to selling its packaging business, a divestment announced earlier this year, and said this summer’s financial market crisis had not made it more difficult for the group to sell the unit.