Family resists selling off Jotun

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The family of the founder of one of Norway’s most international companies, paint and coatings producer Jotun Group, is resisting a takeover bid by Norwegian industrial concern Orkla. The grandson of Jotun’s founder, one of Jotun’s largest shareholders, says he won’t sell. Nor will another major shareholding relative.

Jotun is one of Norway's most international companies, as illustrated by a large Jotun billboard that greets arrivals in Labuan, East Malaysia. The Norwegian paint giant has made its presence known in Malaysia, along with other places, for several decades. PHOTO: Views and News

Orkla made a cash offer for Jotun stock worth NOK 5 billion on Wednesday, saying it wanted to become the company’s largest shareholder. It offered existing shareholders NOK 70,000 (USD 12,700) per share through its Lilleborg division, in return for gaining control.

Among Jotun’s major shareholders, though, is Bjørn Ole Gleditsch, grandson of Odd Gleditsch Jr, who founded Jotun in the former whaling capital of Sandefjord in 1926. The younger Gleditsch, who also happens to be the current mayor of Sandefjord, told newspaper Aftenposten that he was “proud and satisfied” to be an owner of Jotun shares and had no intention of selling to Orkla, controlled by former retailing giant and investor Stein Erik Hagen, one of Norway’s wealthiest men.

“My position is that as long as I can manage and have enough to eat, I’m not interested in making money off my Jotun shares,” Gleditsch told Aftenposten. They were worth NOK 200 when he received them, so Orkla’s offer represents a huge gain.

Family ties seem more important. “This is based on feelings, because my grandfather started the company and my father helped build it up further,” Gleditsch said. “Jotun, which has done well for a long time, was started from scratch in Sandefjord. Given our close ties to grandfather, it’s of no interest to sell our inheritance.”

Jotun chairman Odd Gleditsch dy, who is the second-largest shareholder in Jotun with 14 percent through a family firm, told website dn.no that the Gleditsch family has often described themselves as long-term owners of Jotun stock. Orkla’s offer “doesn’t change that for me,” Gleditsch wrote in an e-mail to dn.no. He added that he didn’t think Orkla would succeed in gaining control over Jotun with its bid.

Jotun has grown from its start-up in Sandefjord into a group of 70 companies and 38 production facilities with a presence on all continents and operations in more than 80 countries around the world. Its operations cover development, production, marketing and sales of various paint systems and products “to protect and decorate surfaces in the residential, shipping and industrial markets,” according to its own website.

Sales revenues amounted to NOK 13.4 billion (USD 1.98 billion) last year and Jotun currently has around 7,800 employees.

Orkla has owned Jotun stock for nearly 40 years and its executives claim they are very satisfied with the company and how it’s run. But it wants to boost its stake, which dn.no reported now amounts to 42.5 percent of the stock and 38.2 percent of the votes in Jotun.

“We in general want to have a majority stake in the companies we invest in,” said Orkla spokesman Johan Christian Hovland. “We have no plans to make changes in the operations of the company, but we want a majority to be involved in the development of the company.”

Hovland noted that Jotun is part of an international branch with several strong players. Structural changes may occur, he said, and “it’s important that Jotun is as strong as possible.” He added that Orkla had made “what we think is a good offer, so we hope shareholders accept it.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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