At the Annual General Meeting of "Holderbank" Financière Glaris Ltd. ("Holderbank") 567 shareholders were present, representing around 64 percent of voting rights. In his address to the AGM, Chairman Thomas Schmidheiny stated that demand for construction services remains encouraging in most Group regions and is in line with predictions made at the end of the first quarter. The strong US dollar had also impacted favourably on the consolidated accounts. Thomas Schmidheiny went on to say that "Europe looks set for the upswing to continue in the building sector. The outlook in North America is still very good, and Group companies there are going all out to meet rising demand. Cement markets in Latin America have generally proved crisis-resistant to date. If the Latin American financial markets remain calm, "Holderbank" is optimistic for the second half of 1999 and especially the year 2000. In real terms, most Asian economies appear to have bottomed out, and there are signs of a trend reversal, albeit a modest one for the moment. 1999 is therefore likely to continue the unbroken series of successes that "Holderbank" has seen over the past few years."
The General Meeting has elected Prof. Gilbert Probst to succeed Dr. Max D. Amstutz, who retired from the Board on grounds of age. Prof. Probst is Ordinary Professor for Organization and Management and Director of the MBA Program of the University of Geneva.
The AGM also approved the creation of authorized capital (see this morning's press release) and conditional capital. The authorized capital increase is to be effected during the period from 16 to 23 June with subscription rights for existing shareholders and is expected to generate approx. CHF 390 million in new funds. The AGM also voted in favour of creating conditional capital for the issue of a maximum of 200,000 bearer shares to honour conversion and/or option rights exercised. This will give the Group added financial flexibility.
As proposed by the Board, a gross dividend of CHF 20 (1998: CHF 20) is to be paid per bearer and CHF 4 (1998: CHF 4) per registered share.
"Holderbank" also announced that it recently increased its majority holding in southern German Breisgauer Cement GmbH to 100 percent. The company operates a cement plant in Geisingen and a cement grinding station in Kleimkems. To maintain the flexibility needed to respond to market developments and as part of a drive to focus business activities on strategically important core products, in line with a move by "HCB (divestiture of concrete chemicals company Holderchem Euco AG in Kirchberg/BE, Switzerland), French Group company Origny S.A. sold off concrete chemicals specialist C.I.A., and Spanish subsidiary HISALBA hived off Holderchem Euco S.A., a company also operating in this sector.
With majority and minority interests in over 60 countries on all continents, "Holderbank" is one of the world's leading suppliers of cement, as well as aggregates (gravel and sand), concrete and construction-related services.