April 11, 2018 / 6:20 AM / 2 months ago

Sulzer CEO expects company to be out of U.S. sanctions soon - Swiss paper

ZURICH, April 11 (Reuters) - Swiss pump maker Sulzer expects to be "freed" from U.S. sanctions within days after a deal meant to trim Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg's stake to less than 50 percent, Chief Executive Greg Poux-Guillaume told Swiss newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft in an interview on Wednesday.

Sulzer has agreed to buy 5 million of its own shares from its largest shareholder, Renova Holdings, which along with Vekselberg, Renova's chairman, has appeared on a list of U.S.-sanctioned individuals and entities.

The company, which sells pumps and other products in the United States, has sought to reduce Vekselberg's ownership from 63 percent to less than 50 percent to avoid long-term damage from the U.S. sanctions that have targeted associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin as punishment for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and other "malign activity."

Sulzer's bank accounts in the United States have been frozen, Aargauer Zeitung reported late on Tuesday, citing a company spokesman.

"We've been in contact with the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control since Sunday," the Swiss newspaper quoted Poux-Guillaume as saying.

"I expect we will have the transaction approved and be freed from the sanctions in a couple of days."

Vekselberg's stake will be 48.83 percent if the deal goes through.

Sulzer will buy the shares at the average price between April 9 and April 13. It said Renova would have to make up the difference, should Sulzer later place the shares with other investors for a lower price than it paid for them.

"We want to make a profit on these shares," the CEO told the Swiss newspaper, adding he did not need to raise capital in order to finance the transaction with Vekselberg.

Sulzer shares have tumbled around 16 percent since the sanctions were announced. Shares of other Swiss companies in which Renova owns sizable shares, including OC Oerlikon and Schmolz & Bickenbach, have also fallen.

Those companies have said they did not expect sanctions to impact their operations. (Reporting by John Miller)

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