ZURICH (Reuters) - Sika’s (SIK.S) management won the latest round in its bitter takeover battle with Saint-Gobain (SGOB.PA) on Friday with a Swiss court ruling that the founding family’s full voting rights could be restricted.
However, the Buckard family’s holding company immediately said it would appeal against the ruling.
France’s Saint-Gobain has offered 2.75 billion Swiss francs to buy the 16 percent stake held by the Burkards, which would give it control of the Swiss speciality chemicals company because it comes with nearly 53 percent of the voting rights.
The Swiss company’s board responded to the offer by reducing the family’s voting power to 5 percent, blocking the takeover, a move contested by the Burkards.
But a court in Zug ruled on Friday that the restriction was rightfully applied, denying the family’s request to overturn the vote.
The case has been closely observed by investors, who see it as a test case for the rights of minority stakeholders. The takeover has also been opposed by Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Fidelity International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, who welcomed the court’s decision on Friday.
Chief Executive Jan Jenisch and Chairman Paul Haelg said they hoped that the decision would put an end to the dispute between the company and the founding family.
“We wish to reach out to all of them and offer an open and constructive dialogue with the aim to find an amicable solution which achieves both their objective to sell while at the same time keeping Sika independent,” Haelg said at a media conference in the company’s Zurich office.
But the family’s company, Schenker-Winkler Holding (SWH), said it would appeal against the decision at the canton’s high court.
“SWH continues to be of the mind that the board’s selective reduction of SWH’s voting rights was unlawful,” SWH said in a statement following the decision.
Saint-Gobain also said its board of directors remained committed to pursuing a deal.
“Saint-Gobain is confident that the Swiss justice will, on appeal, restore the ownership rights of SWH, the Burkard family’s holding company,” the French company said.
The existing purchase agreement between the Burkard family and Saint-Gobain is valid through June 2017, while the French firm has the possibility of extending the deal through to the end of 2018.
Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, Oliver Hirt and John Revill; Editing by Greg Mahlich