Schlaff mulls over RHI exit, says report

Martin Schlaff plans to get rid of his stake in technology and fireproof products manufacturer RHI AG, according to reports.Business magazine Trend claims today (Mon) that the Austrian billionaire wants to sell his interest to Brazilian Magnesita Refractories SA (Magnesita), one of RHI’s main rivals.Schlaff, who started investing in RHI four years ago, currently holds more than 25 per cent of stocks in the firm. This engagement makes the businessman the principal RHI stakeholder since around 60 per cent of shares are widely held stocks.A spokesman for Schlaff rubbished the report as “utter nonsense”, while a spokeswoman for RHI announced that the company was not preparing itself for a sale.Magnesita, which was established in 1939, has been expanding and growing strongly in the past years. The company achieved a turnover of over 810 million Euros and earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) of around 100 million Euros in 2009.RHI is headed by Henning Jensen since Thomas Fahnemann resigned as CEO in August 2010. There have been speculations that Fahnemann quit due to ongoing conflicts with Schlaff.RHI had Ebit of 138.8 million Euros last year. The Viennese company achieved a turnover of 1.523 billion Euros at the same time.RHI is registered on the Vienna Stock Exchange (WBAG). One share in the firm was worth 25.1 Euros at 11am today, down from 26.70 Euros on 4 March.Schlaff’s assets are estimated to range around 1.8 billion Euros. His empire reportedly includes various business participations in the telecommunications sector and other industries.Schlaff was in the news last year when he masterminded a high-risk spy exchange between Israel and Libya.The entrepreneur reportedly used his close connections to Libyan and Israeli politicians and businesspeople to help free Israeli photographer Rafael Hadad from Libyan custody. Haddad was flown to Vienna on Schlaff’s private jet. The snapper – accused by Libya of spying in the country for Israel – then returned to Israel.The Austrian foreign and interior ministries claimed at the time not to be informed about the operation, while Israel’s ambassador in Vienna, Aviv Aharon Shir-On, confirmed: “Martin Schlaff was involved. He helped to carry it out.”