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Unaxis senior bosses leave the ship

Ronny Pekic (left) and Mirko Kovats at Tuesday's shareholders meeting Keystone

The Unaxis technology group has announced that its chief financial officer and head of human resources are leaving the loss-making company immediately.

This content was published on June 29, 2005 - 15:13

It said that Kaspar Kelterborn (CFO) and Matthias Mölleney were quitting as a result of management changes decided at an extraordinary shareholders meeting on Tuesday.

At that meeting, Unaxis surrendered control to the Austrian investment firm, Victory, ending a drawn-out battle for ownership of the loss-making concern.

Unaxis said in a statement from its headquarters at Pfäffikon on Lake Zurich that it would announce successors "in due course".

Earlier on Wednesday, the company’s shares had been suspended from trading at the company’s request. Trading resumed in the afternoon.

Unaxis shareholders had voted on Tuesday in favour of a Victory-backed board of directors.

Tightening grip

Controlled by Austrian investors Mirko Kovats and Ronny Pecik, Victory has tightened its grip on Unaxis since the beginning of the year and will have a 56 per cent stake by September.

The fight over what was once the Oerlikon-Bührle empire came to a climax last month when the founding family agreed to sell its stake to the Austrians.

The spotlight will now focus on Victory’s plans for Unaxis, which has launched a major restructuring programme to concentrate on its profitable thin film and vacuum technology and sell its loss-making displays unit.

Pecik said the semiconductor equipment maker could reach earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) this year of SFr100 million ($78 million).

Unaxis last year issued several profit warnings and posted an operating loss of SFr366 million after being faced with unfavourable exchange rates and a sector downturn.

No public offer

On Tuesday, the Swiss takeover board ruled that Victory did not have to make a public offer to remaining Unaxis shareholders and Kovats said the firm had no current plans to do so.

The Anda and Bührle families, which founded the conglomerate, sold their 21 per cent stake to Victory last month.

But out of that a 14 per cent stake remains to be settled and will increase Victory’s stake to 56 per cent.

Acrimony over control at the Swiss company lasted till the end, with outgoing chairman Markus Rauh not mincing his words about the new owners.

He accused them of going above the law and rejecting offers for a smooth handing-over of power.

"They only want to win, own and then start making personal profit," he said.

Rauh, who is also chairman of Switzerland’s leading telecommunications operator Swisscom, said that Ebit goal of SFr100 million could only be reached through a "radical cannibalisation" of Unaxis.

This would entail sales of the group’s business and large numbers of redundancies.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Unaxis reported a net loss of SFr378 million ($320 million) for 2004.
The company has its headquarters in Pfäffikon, canton Schwyz.
It has 80 subsidiaries in 25 countries.
Unaxis currently has a staff of 6,800.

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In brief

At Tuesday’s shareholders’ meeting:

454 shareholders attended representing 49.9 per cent of the company’s share capital.

All existing members of the board of directors except Thomas Limberger (incoming CEO) resigned from office.

Mirko Kovats was elected chairman at the constituting meeting of the newly-elected board.

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