Since being divested by Total to its shareholders in 2004 at €27 the Arkema shareprice has increased by 85% and it is now nearing €50.  Thierry Le Hénaff, the dynamic PDG (CEO) of Arkema, whom I recently heard on BFM business radio in Paris, seems to be revelling in his new found freedom.

The Arkema board meeting in Paris yesterday voted a share buyback program, but Le Hénaff states clearly that his strategy is one of investment, both in organic growth and in acquisitions.  He will soon have divested about €400 million of non-core assets and this will allow him to muster a sum of about €800 million for acquisition of small, specialized companies that fit his three-pronged strategy (vinyls, industrial chemicals and products to improve performance) and help him to make the overall business less cyclical and produce higher margins.

Le Hénaff also intends to invest about €300 million annually to make the overall business more compeititive.  Three percent of turnover will be invested annually in R&D, to strengthen the industrial capacity of Arkema based on its present resources and capabilities.  At present only about 13% of Arkema's sales happen in Asia, so sales growth in that part of the world will be a priority for him.  

As of today, Arkema has a turnover of €5.7 billion, has 80 plants throughout the world and employs about 17.000 people.  To learn more you can read this morning's financial newspapers, Les Echos or La Tribune (which, by the way, just earned an award for being one of France's best newspapers, based on its combined print and web presence).

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