February 9, 2018 / 5:18 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Switzerland's Clariant halts strategic update pending talks with SABIC

* Clariant calls time on strategic update

* Had announced update amid activist pressure

* Swiss company plans talks with new Saudi shareholder (Adds details throughout)

ZURICH, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Clariant has halted plans to issue an update of its strategy after an activist investor sold its 25 percent stake in the Swiss speciality chemicals maker to Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) last month.

Clariant had said in November it would issue the update after U.S.-based investment vehicle White Tale demanded three Clariant board seats and called for an independent review of the Swiss firm by an investment bank.

The update, which Clariant intended to deliver in early 2018, was to cover merger and acquisition (M&A) activities, short-term portfolio management options, returns to shareholders and cost structures.

But Chief Executive Hariolf Kottmann’s plan is now on hold until he learns more during upcoming meetings with SABIC, now the largest Clariant shareholder.

“We have a completely new situation,” a Clariant spokesman said on Friday. “The strategic update started immediately, but now it does not make sense to proceed with something that was started under completely different circumstances.”

Clariant executives have had informal talks with SABIC managers but have yet to have a formal meeting on strategy.

Last year, White Tale, whose principals included hedge fund Corvex’s Keith Meister, succeeded in scuttling Clariant’s planned $20 billion merger with U.S.-based Huntsman after amassing a roughly $2.4 billion stake in the Swiss company.

SABIC has not outline its objectives after buying White Tale’s stake for an undisclosed sum in late January.

Middle East energy firms have been keen to expand into more advanced chemical operations, such as the catalysts that Clariant produces.

SABIC, 70 percent owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has long been a Clariant customer.

SABIC and Clariant have a U.S. joint venture, Scientific Design, which in 2016 generated revenue of 79 million Swiss francs ($84.17 million). Clariant’s total 2016 sales were 5.8 billion francs.

Clariant releases 2017 results on Wednesday.

$1 = 0.9386 Swiss francs Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Edmund Blair

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