Akzo Nobel unveils plan to separate chemicals arm, pay special dividend

By By Toby Sterling Markets Reuters

The sign of AkzoNobel is pictured at its headquarters in Amsterdam February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos (Copyright Reuters 2017)

Akzo Nobel , the Dutch paint maker trying to fend off a 24.6 billion euro ($26 billion) takeover by U.S. rival PPG Industries Inc , on Wednesday outlined an alternative plan to separate its chemicals business and pay shareholders 1.6 billion euros in extra dividends this year.

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Akzo said it would sell or list the division, which accounts for about a third of sales and profits, within 12 months.

"This strategy will create substantial value for shareholders with significant less risks and uncertainties compared to alternatives," said Chief Executive Ton Buechner in a statement.

Akzo has twice rejected takeover proposals from Pittsburgh-based PPG, despite strong encouragement from many of its shareholders to engage in merger talks.

Investors and analysts have largely been skeptical of whether Akzo's alternative plan can rival PPG's proposed offer of 90 euros per share in terms of value.

Akzo shares were little changed at 78.30 euros at 0710 GMT (3:10 a.m. ET).

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Earlier on Wednesday, Akzo reported better than expected first quarter earnings and forecast a 100 million euro increase in operating profit for the full year.

Akzo, owner of the Dulux paint brand, has argued that PPG's bid does not adequately address concerns of other stakeholders, including employees.

A spokesman for Akzo Nobel said shareholder approval may or may not be required for the business separation depending on which route the company takes and said the company would offer more clarity to investors later.

Analysts have valued the chemicals division at roughly worth 8 billion euros, based on its 2016 operating profit of 629 million euros.

The separation of the chemicals division will lead to 50 million euros in annual cost savings, the company said.

As part of its presentation on Wednesday, the company noted it aims to become carbon neutral by 2050 and it will spend 1 billion euros on research and development by 2020.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Susan Fenton/Keith Weir)