ZURICH, March 29 (Reuters) - The founding family of Swiss construction chemical maker Sika will ask shareholders to reject the board’s proposal to raise the dividend, intensifying a takeover battle involving France’s Saint-Gobain .
The Burkard family, descendents of Sika’s founder, is at odds with the management of the company which makes chemicals used in construction projects such as the Gotthard rail tunnel under the Alps.
Schenker-Winkler Holding, its investment vehicle which has majority control with a stake of just 16 percent, is voting against the dividend proposal of 102 Swiss francs per bearer share, instead seeking a payout of 96 francs.
The Burkards say the dividend that Sika’s managers want, up 31 percent from last year’s 78 francs, is too high.
“The dividend should - in the long-term interests of the group - only be increased in line with the achieved profit increase of 21.8 percent,” an SWH spokesman said.
“The family have seen Sika in good times and in bad times, and they know it is not reasonable to squeeze the company when it is doing well,” he added. “The proposal has no other purpose than to come up with the best payout ratio for Sika.”
The dispute erupted two years ago when Saint-Gobain offered 2.75 billion Swiss francs ($2.8 billion) for a 16 percent stake that comes with nearly 53 percent of the voting rights.
But Sika’s management has blocked the deal by restricting the family’s voting rights to 5 percent.
A court last year upheld the voting restriction, and Sika’s CEO said Saint-Gobain was no longer an issue.
The Sika family, which got 33 million francs in 2015 dividend payments, has appealed against the court’s decision, with another hearing expected in the second half of 2017.
Sika’s management declined to comment on SWH’s dividend request, which will arise at the annual general meeting on April 11.
The family stands a good chance of success in reducing the dividend. Sika’s board has in the past restricted voting rights only for proposals linked to Saint-Gobain’s takeover attempt.
SWH also proposed Jacques Bischoff as another representative to Sika’s board. Bischoff, who unsuccessfully stood for election at last year’s AGM, is likely to be opposed again because he would increase SWH’s representation.
“The Board of Directors will examine the additional proposal and will comment in due time,” a Sika spokesman said. ($1 = 0.9940 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)