Wednesday 17 October 2018

Smurfit - most investors were 'supportive' of anti-bid stance

Smurfit Kappa CEO Tony Smurfit said most shareholders backed the company’s position
Smurfit Kappa CEO Tony Smurfit said most shareholders backed the company’s position
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Smurfit Kappa sought to lay down a marker that its stand-alone status won't dampen investor returns, by yesterday reaffirming guidance that 2018 earnings will be materially up on last year, after International Paper (IP) abandoned its €9bn takeover pursuit.

The US would-be bidder walked away after management at Dublin-headquartered Smurfit Kappa twice frustrated a near €9bn bid to combine the largest listed US paper-packaging firm with Europe's biggest, arguing it was better served pursuing its future independently.

"The vast majority of shareholders were incredibly supportive of the company's position," Smurfit Kappa CEO Tony Smurfit said in an interview with Bloomberg TV and radio.

He said the IP offers have been a distraction that Smurfit Kappa had to deal with.

IP walked away on Tuesday - just ahead of yesterday's put-up-or-shut-up deadline imposed by the Irish Takeover Panel - blaming a lack of engagement from Smurfit's management.

Under Irish takeover rules, the Memphis-based group is barred from making a fresh attempt to buy Smurfit for 12 months.

"The board believes that SKG has superior prospects as a stand-alone business and remains excited about the group's prospects in the short, medium and long-term," Smurfit Kappa said in a statement, adding that it expected the second quarter to represent another strong performance.

David O'Brien, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers, said IP was one of the few packaging companies capable of launching a bid for Smurfit Kappa, so the Irish group is likely to stay as an independent company for now.

Shares in Smurfit, which fell sharply earlier this week, rose yesterday. In a signal of its intent to remain an independent, Smurfit Kappa agreed last month to buy Dutch paper and recycling firm Reparenco for €460m. Yesterday it said it was targeting synergy benefits in excess of €30m from the deal, a disclosure it was forbidden from making at the time under takeover rules.

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