Holcim Names Fontana as Chief to Replace Retiring Akermann

Holcim Names Fontana as Chief to Replace Retiring Akermann
A worker loads sacks of cement onto a truck for distribution at PT Holcim Indonesia's distribution center in Tanggerang, Indonesia. Photographer: Kemal Jufri/Bloomberg News

Holcim Ltd., the world’s second-largest cement maker, said Bernard Fontana from steelmaker Aperam will take over as chief executive officer when Markus Akermann retires after a decade at the top.

Fontana, a French national who is currently CEO of the Luxembourg-based spinoff of ArcelorMittal, will take on the role at Holcim on Feb. 1, the Jona, Switzerland-based company said in a statement today.

The 50-year-old CEO’s arrival at Holcim coincides with the construction industry’s struggles against a decline in developed markets and creation of new capacity in emerging economies. Building-material shares are stuck in a “tunnel of gloom,” analysts at HSBC Holdings Plc, including John Fraser-Andrews in London, said in a report yesterday.

Fontana is “a suitable replacement,” Ian Osburn, an Amsterdam-based analyst at ING, said today in a note. At the same time, Holcim’s “management can add little value in the current materials environment.”

Holcim rose as much as 2.3 percent to 46.52 Swiss francs and was up 1.6 percent as of 1:25 p.m. in Zurich trading.

Fontana oversaw areas such as human resources at ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel producer, before taking over the management of Aperam, a stainless, electrical and specialty-steel unit that it decided to spin off a year ago.

“We have succeeded in finding a successor with a winning personality who has a true track record in corporate leadership as well as in central group functions,” Holcim Chairman Rolf Soiron said in the statement.

Experience With Cycles

“Experience of senior responsibility in a highly cyclical sector such as steel should stand him in good stead for his task at Holcim,” said Rob Orman, an analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland Plc.

Akermann, 64, has led Holcim since January 2002, and the company’s stock has dropped 27 percent since then. That compares with a 16 percent decline in Switzerland’s benchmark SMI index. He drove Holcim’s expansion in India, one of the emerging markets where new plants are starting operations and threatening to pare prices at a time when raw-material costs are rising.

Holcim also plans an $817 million expansion of operations in Brazil. Profit may not grow this year as demand growth in the U.S. slows and input costs increase, Akermann said on an Aug. 18 conference call after reporting second-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates.

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