Orkla CEO Steps Down as Earnings Slumped 57% in First Quarter

Orkla ASA (ORK)’s chief executive officer stepped down after the Norwegian company that is selling assets to focus on consumer brands reported that earnings fell 57 percent in the first quarter.

Bjoern Wiggen resigned after 19 months on job and Aage Korsvold was appointed acting CEO, the Oslo-based company said in a statement. Net income fell to 1.3 billion kroner ($227 million) from 3 billion kroner a year earlier, the company said.

“The change of CEO entails no change in Orkla’s strategy,” Chairman Stein Erik Hagen said in the statement. “The company intends to strengthen its position as the leading branded goods company in the Nordic region. At the same time, the company’s non-core businesses will be divested.”

Hagen, a Norwegian billionaire, has pushed the company to sell assets such as its 39.7 percent stake in Renewable Energy Corp. ASA. The brands business, which makes everything from Grandiosa frozen pizzas to Pierre Robert hosiery, has also been expanding with acquisitions.

“My primary task will be to drive the transformation of Orkla into a pure branded goods company,” Korsvold said in the statement. “Orkla is the leading brand builder in the Nordic region. We will build on the group’s strong market positions to create a stronger Orkla.”

The company said the process for finding a new CEO has begun, according to the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Treloar in Oslo at streloar1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman at jbergman@bloomberg.net

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