Metro shares fly off the shelf as German biggie splits businesses

A customer selects cheese products from a shelf inside a Metro Cash & Carry store, the Russia unit of Metro AG, in Moscow, Russia, on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Metro Cash & Carry has warned that domestic food suppliers are trying to increase some food prices as local produce is substituted for EU, Norwegian and U.S. equivalents which have been sanctioned. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Frankfurt / AFP

German retail giant Metro announced it will spin off its businesses into two separately listed units, sending its shares sharply higher.
“The management board of Metro is preparing the creation of two independent and sector-focused companies through a demerger of the group,” Metro said in a statement.
Metro shares were the strongest performer on the mid-cap MDAX index of the Frankfurt stock exchange, shooting up 11.5 percent to close at 27.40 euros in a generally firmer market.
A wholesale and food specialist group would be created comprising the group’s Metro, Makro and Real brands, as well as a consumer electronics products and services group centred around its Media and Saturn retail chains.
The group’s current chief executive Olaf Koch would head the new wholesale and food specialist group, whiile the consumer electronics business would be headed by Pieter Haas, currently CEO of Media-Saturn.
According to German media reports, Metro and the minority shareholder of its Media-Saturn business, Erich Kellerhals, have been fighting for control of the consumer electronics business for years.
Kellerhals, who holds 22 percent and key veto rights, has repeatedly tried to oust Haas as CEO of Media-Saturn, according to the reports.
Supervisory board chief Juergen Steinemann argued that since there was little operational overlap between the two businesses and limited synergy effects, management felt “very strongly that a split into two independent and focused businesses would be in the best interest of all stakeholders, as it would facilitate a significant opportunity for faster and more profitable growth.”
“Both entities would become individually stock-listed, with their own distinct profile, management and supervisory boards,” said Metro, which generated sales of 59 billion euros last year and employed a workforce of more than 220,000 at 2,000 locations in 29 countries.
The aim would be to give each of the companies and their respective management full control over their corporate strategies.
“This will further increase customer focus, accelerate growth of the businesses, simplify structures and improve time-to-market and operational excellence,” Metro argued. Moreover, both entities would be able to independently pursue acquisition and partnership strategies, enabling them to define their own expansion strategies. Metro said its management and supervisory boards “will make a decision on the contemplated demerger of Metro group after a period of intensive consultation and review.” Should the boards and shareholders be in favour, “implementation of the demerger is aimed for mid-2017,” Metro said.
The group’s anchor shareholders Haniel, Schmidt-Ruthenbeck and Beisheim supported the plans, it added.
“Over the past years, we have successfully revitalized our core businesses while significantly strengthening our group balance sheet,” said CEO Koch.
“Both our wholesale and food specialist business as well as our consumer electronics business have continued to commercially improve, are on a steady successful path and are best-equipped for an independent future,” Koch said.
“Our shareholders would effectively own two well positioned market leaders, both of whom are increasingly focusing on their respective business areas and are generating more value for customers, employees and business partners.”
Already last year, Metro sold its Kaufhof department store chain to Canadian group Hudson’s Bay for 2.8 billion euros.
And the year before it sold its cash and carry hypermarkets in Vietnam to Thailand’s Berli Jucker for 655 million euros.

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