Mystery seller?

Published 19 November 2003

A large tranche of Holcim shares have been placed on the market. Thomas Schmidheiny seen as likely seller.

A large investor in Swiss cement maker Holcim is selling a block of 7.05 million shares in the firm, investment banks Goldman Sachs and UBS said on Wednesday.  News of the placement, seen worth some 400 million Swiss francs ($300m), pushed Holcim's shares lower.  Traders said the seller, who was not named by the banks, appeared to be Holcim's largest shareholder and board member Thomas Schmidheiny. Schmidheiny owns more than one-quarter of Holcim. A spokesman for Schmidheiny and Holcim itself declined to comment on the transaction.  Holcim shares, which have put on some 17 per cent this year, fell 3.9 percent to 56.30 francs over the day, underperforming the broader Swiss market .  The block of seven million shares, which traders expected to be priced between 56 and 58 francs, would amount to more than three percent of Holcim's 201.2 million outstanding shares, which while providing the seller with a useful financial gain,  should also provide a welcome increase the free-float on the open market.  

To simplify the company's share structure, billionaire Schmidheiny earlier this year voluntarily gave up majority control of Holcim, reducing his voting stake to just over one quarter in the business his forefathers started in 1912.  But he vowed to remain a major shareholder with a seat on Holcim's board.  The banks said the seller had agreed to hold on to its remaining Holcim stake for 90 days after the deal closes.