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Categorized | Equities

Nyrstar parts ways with chief executive

Posted on November 26, 2014

Nyrstar CEO Roland Junck talks on February 7, 2013 during a press briefing to announce Belgian-Australian zinc giant Nyrstar NV's results for the year 2012 in Brussels. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / ERIC LALMAND -- BELGIUM OUT -- (Photo credit should read ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty Images)©AFP

Roland Junck

Nyrstar is looking for a new chief executive after the world’s largest zinc producer abruptly parted company with Roland Junck, shortly ahead of an investor vote to approve a refinancing package.

Julien de Wilde, chairman, said Nyrstar’s board had concluded it needed a different leader for a “new phase of execution”. The Belgian group is investing heavily in redeveloping smelters and refineries as part of a strategy initiated under Mr Junck.

    The immediate departure of Mr Junck, chief executive since 2009, follows recent stakebuilding in Nyrstar by Trafigura, one of the world’s largest commodities trading houses.

    Mr de Wilde told the Financial Times the decision to find a new chief executive was not linked to Trafigura’s becoming an investor. “No investors have had [anything] to do with the decision,” Mr de Wilde said.

    Trafigura has said the stake of at least 15 per cent that it has amassed in Nyrstar since last month is a financial investment, although analysts have speculated that it may also give the trading group clout to try to gain marketing rights for a share of Nyrstar’s metals output. At the moment Nyrstar sells its zinc to Noble, another trading house.

    Many trading houses are trying to become more vertically integrated, in a response to declining profit margins in their traditional role as a link between producers and customers.

    Nyrstar raised €600m via a rights issue and bond in September, using the proceeds to pay down some debt and invest in its downstream facilities, with the largest project an expansion of Port Pirie, an Australian smelter.

    “We have the strategy and we have the funding,” said Mr de Wilde. “Now it is a question of accelerating . . . the board decided that it would be better if we did that with another chief executive.”

    Mr de Wilde said he hoped a successor to Mr Junck could be found quickly. “Sometimes you do not have, at moment X, Mr X readily available,” he said.

    Heinz Eigner, chief financial officer since 2007, has taken over as acting chief executive.

    Shareholders in Nyrstar have to vote next week on a change of control clause related to the debt refinancing. Mr de Wilde said he expected support from the shareholder meeting, required under Belgian corporate law.

    Trafigura declined to comment on Mr Junck’s departure. Shares in Nyrstar were flat at €2.75 in Brussels.