In an interview with a German newspaper, an executive of Cognis’s majority owner, Permira, said the private equity firm was considering “an exit strategy” from a company that turned a profit of about €350m in 2008.
In a Reuters alert, Permira’s Joerg Rockenhaeuser is quoted telling Rheinische Post: "We now have to steer Cognis successfully through the economic crisis. After that is the time to plan an exit at Cognis."
But Cognis vice president of corporate communications, Susanne Marell, said Rockenhaeuser’s comments had been taken out of context.
“There is always speculation about Cognis, like every lucrative asset, being sold,” she said. “But these comments are skewed. Rockenhaeuser gave an interview to the newspaper. He said we have turned Cognis around into a global leader. Once that is done it will be time to plan an exit.”
She downplayed the link to the financial crisis.
Permira owns Cognis along with Goldman Sachs Capital Partners and SV Life Sciences but has the controlling stake.
The companies bought Cognis in 2001 and Marell said 4-9 years was a typical timeframe in which such entities held onto assets before putting them up for sale.
“There is nothing unusual about this kind of speculation,” she said, noting Rockenhauser had also mentioned some of its other assets in the same breath.
A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs refused to comment on sell-off speculation for the company with annual sales in excess of €3.5bn globally.
Marell said Cognis had increased in value by 40 per cent since 2001.