AkzoNobel: drive to become leaner, more profitable is working

By Robert Wielaard

AMSTERDAM – Dutch paints and coatings multinational AkzoNobel expects to complete a €300 million shares buyback scheme in the first half of 2021. It spent €13.34 million to buy 150,057 of its common shares in the Dec. 28-Jan. 1 period, paying an average of €88.88 per share.

AkzoNobel operates in 100+ countries, employs 35,000 people and reported a 2019 revenue of 9.1 billion. The company is at pains to complete a massive financial overhaul and says it makes good tracks.

AkzoNobel is buying companies to get a firmer grip on markets. In 2020, it raised its presence in North America by acquiring New Nautical Coatings of Clearwater, Fla., and the premium Sea Hawk brand owner. AkzoNobel has not disclosed financial details. “North America is a key region for our Yacht Coatings business,” says AkzoNobel CEO Thierry Vanlancker. “It’s the largest yacht coatings market in the world.”

In 2020, AkzoNobel agreed to buy the decorative paints business of Spain’s Industrias Titan SAU. “The Spanish market has strong growth potential,” says Vanlancker.

In 2017, AkzoNobel fended off a takeover bid by US rival PPG Industries, Inc., an American Fortune 500 company based in Pittsburg, Pa. To prevent a takeover, AkzoNobel had to promise shareholders better returns. Last year, ‎it was optimistic about meeting new financial targets, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced it into a longer roadmap to achieve a 15% return on sales. A growing ROS means a company grows more efficiently.

In addition to its shares buyback, new acquisitions and tighter financial controls, the paints giant invests heavily in R&D.

It recently announced its collaboration with  the Dutch Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC) led to a “breakthrough innovation.” The company says it has found a more sustainable way of making resins using bio-based monomers rather than the traditional oil-based ones. “Patent applications have already been filed for resins and coatings made with monomers derived from sugar derivatives isolated from biomass,” says Klaas Kruithof, AkzoNobel’s Chief Technology Officer.