Vekselberg Ups Stake In Oerlikon

ZURICH -- Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg raised his stake in Switzerland's Oerlikon to 32 percent, taking another step toward wresting control from the group's other major shareholder ahead of the annual shareholders meeting next month.

Vekselberg, who holds the stake through his investment group Renova, exercised a call option for a 7.6 percent stake against Austrian investment group Victory, which held 26 percent in Oerlikon shares and 23.3 percent in options on April 9.

The move comes just days after Oerlikon's board, headed by Victory's Georg Stumpf, proposed measures that could force a shareholder who acquires more than one-third of Oerlikon shares to make a full takeover bid -- a proposal opposed by Renova. Victory controls three seats on Oerlikon's board, while Renova has one seat.

Oerlikon, once seen as an icon of Swiss industry and famed for its high-quality weapons in World War II, now has activities ranging from the coatings used in Formula One racing cars to the machines used to make solar cells.

"At the [shareholders meeting], Renova most probably eyes a second seat in the board of directors and chairman's position," said Landsbanki Kepler analyst Christoph Ladner.

Oerlikon last week opened an office in Moscow and said it aimed to more than double Russian sales to more than 100 million Swiss francs ($100.7 million) by 2010.

Reuters, Bloomberg