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Cement boss steps down over insider dealing claims

Thomas Schmidheiny is under investigation in Spain

(Keystone Archive)

Insider trading accusations have forced the Swiss industrialist, Thomas Schmidheiny, to step down as chairman of the Holcim board.

Schmidheiny, who is being investigated by the Spanish authorities over the purchase of private shares in a Spanish company, said he was standing down as chairman of the cement company board for the duration of the legal proceedings.

Holcim - one of the world's leading suppliers of cement - said that Schmidheiny had informed it of the investigations against him and delegated his duties to Willy Kissling, the deputy board chairman.

"It is a fact we have to accept," Holcim head of communications Roland Walker told swissinfo. "We hope it will be settled."

In December 2000, Schmidheiny bought shares in the Spanish firm Asturiana de Zinc SA. One month later, the Swiss company Xstrata - where Schmidheiny was a board member - announced a takeover bid for Asturiana.


Schmidheiny said he did not make any profit from the transaction. But in a statement, he expressed regret over his actions. "I regret having acted during such a critical time without sufficient reflection."

The Swiss Banking Commission has said it will help the Spanish stock exchange regulator in its investigations against Schmidheiny, as reported in the "SonntagsZeitung".

Last year, Schmidheiny, who was among the world's richest men in a survey by Forbes' magazine, stepped down from his position as Holcim's CEO in a move the company described as "improving effective corporate governance".


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