Philips CFO Wirahadiraksa Quits for LafargeHolcim Finance RoleElco van Groningen and Martijn van der Starre
Ron Wirahadiraksa quit as chief financial officer at Royal Philips NV to take on the same role at the world’s biggest cement maker LafargeHolcim Ltd., which is seeking to harness savings from a recent merger.
Wirahadiraksa, 55, will join LafargeHolcim on Dec. 1 and succeed Thomas Aebischer, who is pursuing new opportunities outside the group, LafargeHolcim said in a statement Monday.
The 55-year-old Dutchman, who became CFO of Philips in 2011, built his reputation by helping transform the electronics group with the sale of low-margin businesses and a move to more profitable healthcare services. He’s switching to a company being formed by the merger of the world’s top two cement suppliers, with the task of generating promised cost savings of
1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) annually.
“I see why they wanted him,” Marcel Achterberg, an analyst for Petercam, said by phone. “He will be able to show his integration and cost-cutting capabilities.”
Abhijit Bhattacharya will succeed Wirahadiraksa at Philips as of Monday, the Amsterdam-based company said in a separate statement. Currently head of finance at the lighting division, he joined the company in 1987 and held senior roles in Asia Pacific, Europe and the U.S. as well as chairing the team in charge of breaking Philips into two.
“It is striking for Philips that this happens in the middle of the split off process,” Marc Hesselink, an analyst for ABN Amro, said by phone. “Ideally you don’t have such an important move during the process.”
While a gain for Philips, Bhattacharya’s move will be a loss for the lighting division, if it’s spun off, Petercam’s Achterberg said.
“If lighting is making its way to the stock exchange, Abhijit would have been good with his IR experience,” Achterberg said.
Philips is currently weighing all options, including a sale and an initial public offering for its lighting unit.
Shares of Philips fell 0.2 percent at 22.53 euros at 9:01 a.m. in Amsterdam. LafargeHolcim declined 0.6 percent to 56.05 euros.