Yara CEO Haslestad Resigns as CF Merger Talks Continue

Yara International ASA jettisoned its outgoing chief earlier than planned, saying he wasn’t the right person to lead merger talks with CF Industries Holdings Inc. as he wouldn’t have a role in the potential joint company.

Joergen Ole Haslestad, who will be replaced by Chief Financial Officer Torgeir Kvidal from today as acting chief executive officer, resigned less than two weeks after the merger negotiations prompted his planned successor to reverse a decision to join Yara. Norsk Hydro ASA CEO Svein Richard Brandtzaeg, due to take over by February, was told of the CF talks after he had already accepted the top job at the fertilizer maker.

“Yara’s board have concluded that Haslestad is not the right person to lead the company going forward, also in light of the ongoing talks with CF Industries,” Leif Teksum, Yara’s chairman, said in a statement. “Haslestad would not have a role in a potential merged company.”

Yara fell 3.3 percent to 304.5 kroner Oslo. CF rose 3.5 percent to $282.76 in New York.

Yara and CF are in talks to form the world’s largest fertilizer supplier with almost $20 billion in sales, the companies said last month. A deal would enable Yara to expand into North America and benefit from savings in raw materials as U.S. natural gas prices have dropped because of booming output from shale.

“The discussions with CF Industries will continue with Kvidal leading the Yara team, with support from the board and in particular from me as chairman,” Teksum said today.

The Norwegian government, which owns 36 percent of Yara, would probably spend billions of dollars to maintain a stake of at least 34 percent in case a merger occurs, parties representing a majority of the Nordic country’s parliament said last week.

Kvidal, 49, has served as CFO since May 2012, after heading the supply and trade division from 2011 to 2012. Haslestad has been CEO since 2008.

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