December 7, 2001
Kvaerner Philadelphia "not for sale"
Maybe Kjell Inge Røkke, the new chairman of Kvaerner ASA, spent the flight from Oslo to Philadelphia reading the fine print in the contract under which Kvaerner operates the Philadelphia Shipyard. In any event, what he's been telling the Philadelphia press is that the yard "is not for sale" and that "there are tremendous opportunities" for it to make money.Those sentiments aren't those attributed to him in the Norwegian press just a few days ago.
In an interview with Henry Holcomb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Røkke said the Philadelphia yard and Kvaerner's $429 million economic development agreement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had "not gotten appropriate attention from Kvaerner's management" in the past.
"We have an agreement. The key thing now is for Kvaerner to deliver," Røkke said. He said the deal that gave him more than half of Kvaerner's shares had solved the cash-flow problems that pulled the company to within hours of bankruptcy.
"We have the liquidity to support the yard ... and provide the assurances that buyers of its ships require," Roekke said.
Roekke was scheduled to meet with the yard's employees this morning. He began cultivating their union leaders early in his battle for control of Kvaerner.
"For us, the workers are key to everything," he said. "The yard has a loyal and skilled workforce. It is up to us to organize ourselves as management to build ships at less cost."
In the interview eith thr ZInquirer yesterday, Roekke sat across the table from Kristian Siem, one of his rivals in the long takeover fight. Siem will remain Kvaerner's CEO through a transition period. According to the Inquirer article "the two said nice things about each other, seeking, as they had done in earlier meetings, to demonstrate that the transition would be smooth."
Røkke said he would stick with Siem's choices for chairman and vice chairman of the Philadelphia shipyard board - Richard Petrie and Allen Stevens. Stevens, an expert in productivity, is already working alongside the yard's chief executive, Ron McAlear.
As Siem was planning to do, says the Inquirer, Røkke authorized the yard to start building its second containership.