Nobel Biocare Investor Ronner Ends Attempt for Board Role

An investor in Nobel Biocare Holding AG, the world’s second-biggest dental implant maker, ended an effort to win three seats on the board after the company rejected two of his nominees.

Nobel spurned his view that the company needs to review strategy, in particular whether it should focus on more expensive implants or low-cost products, the investor, Oskar Ronner, said in a statement today. The board opposed his nominees and suggested Ronner join “in a way that I do not believe would allow me to use my experience and knowledge effectively,” he said.

Ronner, a former vice chairman of Nobel’s larger rival Straumann Holding AG, nominated himself and two Siemens AG executives last month to help turn around Glattbrugg, Switzerland-based Nobel after “five years of a dramatic downturn” in the business and the stock price, he said.

“The position taken by the board has prompted me to withdraw my proposal and reject its offer of asking shareholders to elect me (but not my two candidates) to the board,” Ronner said in the statement. The board “believes it has already initiated the measures required to effect a sustainable turnaround, and that as a consequence results will already begin to improve visibly during the current financial year,” he said.

Share Movements

Nobel shares, which had dropped about 80 percent in the five years before today, rose 3.2 percent to 9.93 Swiss francs in Zurich, the highest price since Sept. 14. The stock jumped 5 percent on Jan. 18, the day Nobel announced that Ronner was seeking board seats.

The company is expected to announce cost-cutting measures tomorrow, along with fourth-quarter results, that may save 26 million euros ($34.7 million), SonntagsZeitung reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information.

Nobel would have welcomed Ronner to the board, the company said in a separate statement. Sueha Demokan, a spokesman for Nobel, didn’t return a call seeking further comment.

Ronner, 68, would have added “valuable industry knowledge” as a former member of Straumann’s board, Simon Goetschmann, an analyst at Helvea, wrote in a note to investors.

“The recent hike in Nobel Biocare’s share price was partly driven by hopes that things would turn positive with new board members and potentially new management,” he said.

Ronner served as vice chairman of Basel, Switzerland-based Straumann from 2000 to 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He was CEO of Elektrowatt AG, and moved to Siemens AG after the German company acquired Elektrowatt’s building controls and security divisions in 1998.

Siemens Nominees

The other board nominees were Cheryl Benini-Leland, senior vice president of a building technology unit of Siemens in Switzerland, and Rolf Renz, 57, chief financial officer of Siemens Southwest Europe.

“With our many years of industry experience and our clear strategic and operational ideas about turning round a listed company with a strong position on world markets, we wanted to assume direct influence and responsibility on the board of directors in constructive dialogue,” Ronner said.

Nobel and Straumann have been hurt by reduced demand for implants because of the recession and increased unemployment.

Nobel separately nominated a former Straumann executive, Franz Maier, 48, for the board. Shareholders will elect board members at the annual meeting March 28.