Holcim shares surge after investors welcome move to spin off N.American business
Reuters · 01/29 10:46
Holcim shares surge after investors welcome move to spin off N.American business

- Holcim HOLN.S shares were the best performers in Europe on Monday after investors welcomed the building material giant's plan to separate its North American business and list it on the New York Stock Exchange.

Holcim on Sunday announced a plan to spin off the business to shareholders which could create a company with a market valuation of around $30 billion.

The company's shares were 3.8% higher in early trading, pushing them to the top of the Stoxx Europe 600 Price Index .STOXX.

Thomas Schmidheiny, the company's biggest shareholder leant his support to the transaction, which will see two companies created - one supplying cement, concrete and roofing in North America and another covering the rest of the world.

Schmidheiny, the great grandson of Holcim's founder and a former chairman of the company, owns around a 7% stake in the company, according to his spokesperson.

"Mr. Schmidheiny fully supports the separation and listing of the American business, which he believes is in line with industrial logic," the spokesperson told Reuters.

Holcim Chief Executive Jan Jenisch earlier on Monday told reporters how optimistic he was about the prospects for the North American business, which is described as the world's most tractive construction market.

The on-shoring trend which is seeing companies bring production back to the United States, as well as the shortage of housing in the country were major growth drivers for building material suppliers, he said.

"We believe this is going to be a rock star business for us," Jenisch said. "At the same time we have scale in North America with more than $11 billion of sales and more than 850 state-of-the-art production sites.

"This is our model to accelerate the growth and become a $20 billion company in North America alone."

The market momentum would be affected by a possible change of president following the elections later this year, Jenisch said.

"I don't really see the risk why this should change," Jenisch said. "To rebuild the infrastructure, re-industrialise and at some point to re-dynamise the housing market, I think this is a priority for probably any government in the U.S."

The remaining business - Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa meanwhile could be supported with share buybacks, as it expected its free cash flow to increase from around 2 billion Swiss francs ($2.32 billion) at present to 3 billion francs by 2030.

Analysts were positive about the transaction, who cited the higher multiples for the shares of the U.S. consruction companies.

"We view the separation of the North American assets as a smart move in terms of shareholder value creation and expect a materially positive share price reaction today," said Harry Goad at Berenberg.

($1 = 0.8619 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by John Revill)

((John.Revill@thomsonreuters.com; +41 41 528 36 37; Reuters Messaging: john.revill.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.))