Holcim cements Aggregate takeover

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The Independent Online

The Swiss cement giant Holcim moved to deter any rival suitors for Aggregate Industries (AI) yesterday as it formally unveiled its agreed £1.8bn offer for the company.

Holcim's brokers, Citigroup, waded into the stock market and increased its shareholding in the Leicestershire-based, aggregates ready-mixed concrete and asphalt supplier to more than 29 per cent. AI shares closed at 139.25p - a shade below the Holcim offer which is worth 140p including a 2p second interim dividend which shareholders will receive.

The share purchasing makes it much less likely that another trade buyer or private equity group will make a move for AI, which is now set to become the second UK building materials supplier to fall into foreign hands in quick succession.

Peter Tom, the former rugby player who has built AI into a £1.5bn business, said he would remain as chief executive of the company until July next year and had no intention of winding down, even though he and his family will make £29m from their shareholding.

"What I set out to do was build a business we could be proud of," he said. "The end reward of capital was not what drove me. I have been well-paid anyway by my shareholders and if I wanted to I could have done the world cruise a long time ago. I actually love work."

AI's other executive directors, including its chief operating officer Bill Bolsover, have agreed to remain with the business once it is under Swiss ownership.

Markus Akermann, Holcim's chief executive, said the takeover would generate 100m Swiss francs (£45m) in benefits by 2007 but he ruled out any job losses among AI's 8,500-strong workforce. Holcim also announced plans to invest $800m (£428m) for a controlling stake in India's second-biggest cement maker.

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