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Sulzer stakes bought by Russian billionaire

Sulzer is a traditional Swiss company in the industrial sector Keystone

The Russian-held Renova group has bought a 32 per cent stake in Swiss engineering firm Sulzer together with Austria's investment company Victory.

This content was published on April 21, 2007 - 13:26

It is the latest in a series of moves by the Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg to boost his position as an investor in Switzerland's industrial sector.

Renova already has a 14 per cent stake in Swiss technology group OC Oerlikon which recently bought the Swiss textile machinery and car part maker Saurer.

The new acquisition is worth about SFr2.1 billion ($1.7 billion). Renova said its total holding in Sulzer comprised an 18 per cent stake in shares with an additional 14 per cent stake taken via options.

Sulzer is active in more than 120 locations around the world and has a workforce of about 10,400, including 1,200 in Switzerland.

"By investing in Sulzer, [we have] been able to further and strategically deepen its existing investment in the industrial technology sector," a Renova statement said on Friday.

"The fact that we are again investing in a Swiss industrial company proves how good a location Switzerland is for growth-oriented companies."

Long-term

Renova added it was not planning to further increase its financial involvement in Sulzer in the near future, and was committed as a long-term investor.

Shares in Sulzer closed four per cent stronger on Friday at SFr1,800. It adds to the some 25 per cent gained so far this year on the back of previous takeover speculation.

The Winterthur-based Sulzer firm, which for its part has plans to buy British engineering group Bodycote, initially did not comment the joint investment by Renova and Victory.

However, the chairman of the board, Ulf Berg, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper Sulzer wanted to remain independent.

He also criticised Swiss regulations which allowed investors to acquire a considerable stake of shares and options in a company without a public announcement.

Takeover rules

Berg accused the Deutsche Bank and the Zurich Cantonal Bank of selling Sulzer options to Renova and Victory over the past few months.

A series of the takeover bids and major acquisitions in Switzerland, including OC Oerlikon, Saurer and Ascom, have prompted calls for regulatory changes.

A parliamentary committee wants the share threshold level to be lowered from five per cent to three per cent to force investors to reveal their identity.

Both parliamentary chambers have to debate the proposal before changes can come into force later this year.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Sulzer is active in machinery and equipment manufacturing as well as surface engineering.

It has a total workforce of about 10,400 in 120 locations around the world, including 1,200 in Switzerland.

Its core divisions are leading suppliers of the oil, gas, power generation as well as car and aerospace industries.

The company was founded in 1834 and its headquarters are in Winterthur, outside Zurich.

Business figures (2006): Net profit - SFr221.4 million. Sales - SFr2,801.7 million.

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Swiss industrial sector

There are an estimated one million people working in Switzerland's industrial sector.

About 300,000 people work for engineering and machinery companies, including Sulzer.

The sector is made up mainly of small- and medium sized enterprises, but also some world leaders.

It accounts for about 40% of Swiss exports.

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