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Hostile takeover Sika stand-off with family heirs continues unabated

Urs Burkard appears on a screen at the Sika AGM

Urs Burkard, representing the family heirs, appeals to the AGM during an address.

(Keystone)

During another stormy annual general meeting, the majority stakeholders of Swiss chemical manufacturer Sika were once again controversially denied the chance to vote in a new chairman who would support their plans to sell the company to a French rival.

At Tuesday’s AGM, the family heirs of Sika’s founder faced a familiar pattern of having their votes restricted when it came to electing board members. As a result, chairman Paul Hälg was re-elected along with other board members hostile to the proposed Saint-Gobain takeover.

The four-year battle between the Burkard family, who control the majority of votes, and Sika directors has turned into a war of attrition that can only be broken by the Swiss courts. The stand-off started in 2014 when the Burkards announced their intention to sell their controlling stake to the French industrial conglomerate.

Hälg and other board members vehemently oppose the share sale. To prevent the Burkards from simply replacing them with more pliable directors, the current board devised the contentious plan to restrict Burkard votes to 5% at the last four AGMs.

The family went to court to get the artificial voting restriction lifted but were turned down in a first hearing in 2016. A higher court is due to give its appeal verdict within weeks. Only when the legal process is complete will it be known which side has won the argument. 

The Burkards have consistently refused to discharge the board, leaving them vulnerable to potential future lawsuits. They have also repeatedly refused to allow the board to be paid in retaliation to the rebellion. Voting restrictions only apply to items directly affecting the proposed sale, such as the election of board members. 


swissinfo.ch/mga

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