STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Hexagon HEXAb.ST CEO Ola Rollen said on Thursday he would not give up his job at the measurement technology company and laid out a detailed defence against charges over insider trading brought against him by Norwegian prosecutors.
Rollen, who has led Hexagon since 2000 and turned it into one of Sweden’s biggest companies with a market value of more than 120 billion crowns (11.01 billion pounds), said he had considered resigning in the wake of his October arrest.
“This is the time to remain CEO,” Rollen said. “It is simply not on the agenda to slow down. Hexagon deserves full attention, and it is going to get it.”
Norwegian prosecutors said on Wednesday they were charging Rollen with insider trading in connection with an investment in Norway's Next Biometrics ASA NEXT.OL in October 2015, a transaction which did not involve Hexagon.
“We are convinced that Ola Rollen has done the things he’s now charged with, and that we can prove it in court,” Senior Public Prosecutor Marianne Bender told Reuters.
Shares in Hexagon initially fell 6 percent but had recovered some of that loss by 1232 GMT as Rollen presented his case in a call with investors, media and analysts, trading down 2.5 percent.
Gun Nilsson, CEO of main shareholder Melker Schorling AB MELK.ST who will take over as Hexagon chairman in May, said Rollen retains the full support of the board.
“Our standpoint remains unchanged, you are innocent until proven guilty, and there is strong evidence to support Ola Rollen’s innocence,” Nilsson said.
The AP 1 fund, the company’s sixth largest shareholder, also said it supported Rollen staying on as CEO.
Rollen denies any wrongdoing and tweeted a link to a website dedicated to his case [olarollentruth.com] after Thursday’s conference call.
His lawyers said they remained convinced the court would conclude that the case lacked merit.
The allegations concern an investment made in Next Biometrics in October 2015 by Iskossala Ltd, Rollen’s private investment firm, which bought shares on behalf of Greenbridge Partners Ltd, a company co-founded by Rollen.
A first purchase of 284,341 shares was made on Oct. 6 and 7, 2015. A couple of days later, on Oct. 8, Iskossala bought another 333,333 shares and subscribed to a directed rights issue for 2,000,000 more shares.
Shares in Next Biometrics surged 84 percent on the day when the Oct. 8 investment was announced.
The head of the Swedish Shareholders Association told Reuters Rollen should consider taking a temporary leave of absence from his CEO duties in light of the charges, but Rollen dismissed the suggestion.
“You either resign or you stay, and that is the two options there are for CEOs, no matter the size of the company,” he said.
A date for the trial has yet to be set, but Rollen’s lawyer Christian Hjort said his best estimate was for the case to come up during the late autumn and possibly stretch into 2018.
Danske Bank said it believed the short term impact on Hexagon’s business would be minor, but added that the share price rise since November was not factoring in an indictment.
Hexagon announced in October that Rollen had been detained on suspicion of insider trading.
The shares fell 10 percent on the day, but have since recovered.
($1 = 8.8665 Swedish crowns)
Reporting by Johannes Hellstrom; editing by Alexander Smith and Jason Neely
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