Heidelberg Cement tycoon’s suicide spells trouble for Hanson

Uncertainty surrounds the future of Hanson after the main shareholder of parent company Heidelberg Cement died when he threw himself under a train.

Adolf Merckle, who was Germany‘s fifth richest man, committed suicide last week.

His death has sent further shockwaves through a businesses still reeling from the drop-off in demand for materials.

Banks have taken control of VEM, Merckle’s holding company, and KPMG is now auditing its UK operations, after which the sale of some assets is likely.

One source close to Hanson said: “We just don’t know what will happen. Any business that has a change of ownership has an uncertain future. It couldn’t have come at a worse time considering the recent restructuring.”

 

A City analyst said that even before his death, there had been rumours that Merckle’s shares could have been taken over by banks as collateral for his debts.

He added: “The fate of Hanson depends on whether or not Merckle’s family is prepared to let some firms go under to save others.”

Another said: “Heidelberg has a major debt problem. The banks have given the Merckle entity breathing space, but that doesn’t apply to HeidelbergCement.

“It could break its covenants and would then be forced to sell assets. The major shareholders will not be able to put in more money so there’s a big possibility the group will be in some difficulty at the end of 2009.

“Some of Hanson’s assets will be attractive to other businesses, but its brick business in the UK will be at the bottom of the pile.”

A spokesman for Hanson said: “Adolf Merckle was a member of the supervisory board and the majority shareholder. But at the moment we don’t expect there will be any effect on our business.”

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