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Saia-Burgess formally rejects Sumida bid

Saia-Burgess produces electrical components for the car industry (Saia-Burgess)

Swiss electrical components company Saia-Burgess has formally rejected a hostile takeover bid from Japan's Sumida Corporation.

Saia's CEO Daniel Hirschi told swissinfo Sumida's offer did not fit in with company strategy and had been ill-judged.

He said that although Saia was very interested in the Asian market, it could build up its business there without merging with Sumida.

Sumida had offered to buy Saia-Burgess for SFr950 ($761) per share, which values the firm at about SFr580 million. The Swiss firm has recommended that its shareholders reject the offer.

swissinfo: What was your reaction to the bid?

Daniel Hirschi: Our reaction was that we don't have to cooperate with a company like Sumida, that we think it's better for Saia-Burgess to pursue its own strategy as planned and that there's no point in [accepting] this offer.

swissinfo: Did you reject it straight away?

D.H.: No, not straight away. We said of course Sumida has the right to make a bid, we are a public company listed on the stock exchange and anyone can make an offer to the shareholders. But we pointed out that we have our own strategy that does not take into account a corporate takeover.

swissinfo: Have there been other takeover bids?

D.H.: We have spoken to a lot of firms that were interested in us and discussed a possible price in case the shareholders decided to proceed, but we have also said that when we didn't think it was a good idea, that was the end of any talks.

Until now no one has ever tried to force our hand. We have never faced a hostile takeover bid before.

swissinfo: Were there differences of understanding or communication problems with the Japanese side?

D.H.: I don't think it's a language problem. It's simply that we see things differently. When Sumida says this is a friendly takeover, they mean that they will name a price, that they won't replace the management and they want to work alongside us.

Our definition of friendly is that you speak to the people in charge and that there is mutual agreement a takeover is a good idea. That didn't happen. Sumida never tried [to obtain our agreement]. They told us they were going to buy us out, and wanted to make it friendly. It is a little naïve to expect that the board and management will say that it is what they've always wanted. It's a totally wrong assessment of the situation.

swissinfo: Sumida would give you a foothold in the Asian market. Aren't you interested in Asia?

D.H.: On the contrary, we are very interested in Asia. We are in the process of building up our business there. We think that is the right approach. But when Sumida says, "We can help you", my reaction is "Perhaps, but not necessarily." Sumida has production facilities in China, but we could build up our own facilities overnight if we had orders, and we can do that without the Japanese.

Regarding Japan, we decided years ago that it would take second place to China. I'm not saying it wouldn't be an advantage to work with a company that understands the culture and system in Japan, but we don't believe Sumida has good access to the companies that really interest us, Honda and Toyota.

swissinfo-interview: Yumi von Reding-Sato

In brief

Saia-Burgess has advised its shareholders to reject a takeover offer from Japan's Sumida Corporation.

Sumida offered SFr950 per share, which values the firm at about SFr580 million.

The Swiss electrical components firms said this was not a fair price.

It said on Thursday that if Sumida withdrew its offer it would buy back an equivalent of SFr50 million of its own shares, or 8% of share capital.

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