Linde to ring changes?
Kruger’s departure could point to dramatic changes
IS THERE MORE to the resignation of Afrox MD Tjaart Kruger than meets the eye? Kruger’s resignation announcement – which appears rather sudden, considering the lack of detail about succession planning – was swiftly followed by a cautionary announcement. It seems unlikely Afrox is making an acquisition, so Kruger’s stepping down might precede changes to its iconic gas business – probably at the behest of controlling shareholder, German multinational Linde.
Afrox corporate communications officer Simon Miller told Finweek no comment could be added to either announcement, as the company was in a closed period.
Kruger had only been with Afrox since 2007 and – in reality – had only just instituted corporate changes an Afrox press release referred to as reorganising and modernising the company “to reflect the realities of doing business in today’s challenging economic environment”.
Afrox, under Kruger, has also continued investing in plant expansion and modernisation, which former chairman Ken Masters – writing in its year to end-December results – believed the benefits of which were likely to start coming through from 2011 onwards.
Of course, cynics would point out Kruger’s efforts had also seen the usually reliable Afrox’s profits crunched (down 24% to R606m in the year to end-December) – which might raise questions about whether Linde may have shown Kruger the door.
If Kruger’s departure and the subsequent cautionary do point to a dramatic reorganisation of its South African operations by Linde, then two options come to mind: a buyout of minority shareholders or an outright sale of Afrox. The appointment of a new MD will no doubt be telling in that regard.
Presumably the operational leadership – in the interim – might fall to chairman Michael Huggon, who has extensive experience in the gases business.