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Hexagon values Leica's Swissness

Rollen points the way for Leica Geosystems

(Keystone)

Leica Geosystems, the measuring group, will retain its Swiss identity after Hexagon completes its takeover, the Swedish firm's chief executive tells swissinfo.

Ola Rollén also confirmed that Leica's board would step down in November to be replaced by new directors appointed by Hexagon.

Hexagon will also "think seriously" about delisting the measuring technology company from the Swiss stock exchange once it has accumulated enough shares.

It currently holds 74 per cent of Leica's shares but needs at least 90 per cent before it can force the remaining shareholders to sell, giving Hexagon complete control.

Leica shareholders, including board members who hold eight per cent, are expected to sell by the October 14 deadline.

Hexagon will then close the deal on October 26.

The United States company Danaher, which also put in an offer for Leica in the summer, has until Wednesday to decide whether to pursue its rival takeover bid.

But it is unlikely to proceed, having sold its Leica stake weeks ago.

Rollén expects Leica Geosystems to start trading as a Hexagon-owned company on October 28.

swissinfo: Will Leica Geosystems remain a Swiss brand?

Ola Rollén: I think people would like Leica to be a Swiss company. We have some experience of Swiss labelling as we have a subsidiary, TESA in Renens, which is renowned for its Swiss quality.

It has been proven over the years that Swiss quality and the Swiss label gives you extra value in the international market. That does not mean that you can charge horrendously more than your competitors, but there is a premium for Swiss brands.

swissinfo: With the Leica board stepping down, will Leica be run from Sweden?

O.R.: The remote control works but it does not reach that far. Leica has some very capable people so there will probably be a joint leadership between Sweden and Switzerland.

There are ongoing discussions to see if Leica board members will join the Hexagon board.

swissinfo: Will it be difficult to keep Leica chief executive Hans Hess on after the takeover battle?

O.R.: The takeover was a case of business as usual and I think the Leica board acted very professionally.

Hess has declared that he does not want a full-time position but he has extensive knowledge that we want to retain.

He has a deep understanding of Leica and I do not think he is the type of man who will simply withdraw. It is up to individuals to decide what they want.

swissinfo: What will happen to Leica's Swiss workforce?

O.R.: No jobs are really at risk because of Hexagon's takeover. We will try to bring growth to Leica and not contraction.

But all jobs are at risk in business because we live in a competitive world and, if you do not stay competitive, you will lose out.

There is some overlapping in company headquarters and distribution, but it is too early to say where jobs will be lost. Neither of these areas are labour-intensive functions.

swissinfo: What attracted you to Leica Geosystems in the first place?

O.R.: We identified Leica as a target three years ago because they were developing non-tactile measuring technology that we needed. This technology measured objects by scanning, which is less cumbersome.

In the summer we could see that Leica was undervalued. We put in a low bid which we then had to raise, but there is no law against making a good business deal, is there?

swissinfo: What is your vision for Leica inside Hexagon?

O.R.: We will continue Leica's original strategy of growing in the Americas and in Asia. We aim to speed up that growth further.

swissinfo-interview: Matthew Allen

Key facts

Hexagon made an initial offer in June of SFr440 ($343) per Leica share which was trumped by US firm Danaher's SFr500 per share "white knight" takeover bid. Hexagon subsequently increased its offer to SFr573.
The deadline for other companies to step in expires on Wednesday. Danaher have previously indicated they will not pursue their bid by selling their stake in Leica.
Leica shareholders have until October 14 to sell their shares to Hexagon. The Swedish company expects to have the deal wrapped up by October 26.

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