Lafarge unhappy with Považská Cementáren brass

Officials with French cement company Lafarge said they were deeply dissatisfied with the results of a September 29 shareholders' meeting at Slovak cement maker Považská Cementáren.

Lafarge representative Peter Laube said that Považská's management refused to supply information about the company's results or the contracts it has signed at the meeting, arguing that these were business secrets. Lafarge, a world leader in the production of construction materials, has threatened legal action.

The root of Lafarge's discontent with Považská's management lies in a quarrel over the August 23 sale of a 70.4% stake in the factory to a German rival, construction company Berger-Holding GmbH. Despite several attractive offers from Lafarge, the previous owner of the Považská stake, Portland Cement, refused to deal with the French firm, preferring instead the German Berger company, which is not involved in cement production.

Through the sale, Berger expanded its activities to Slovakia from existing operations in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. The deal is currently being investigated by the Slovak Antimonopoly Office. Berger also owns a 25% stake in the Slovak cement maker Cemmac in Horne Srnie.

Lafarge's Laube has also questioned why profits at Považská have fallen to a fraction of their level before the firm's 1996 privatisation. The explanations of Považská management, he said in May this year, were "not convincing," especially given the large profits Portland cement had made from its Slovak operations.

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