Volvo shareholder keen on Renault stake

Swedish holding company Industrivärlden, Volvo Group's second largest shareholder, has confirmed its interest in buying some or all of Renault's stake in the Swedish truckmaker.

Volvo shareholder keen on Renault stake

“If Renault wants to sell its shares, we would be interested in taking some of them,” Industrivaerden’s new chairman, Sverker Martin-Löf, told financial daily Dagens Industri.

The comments sent Volvo Group shares up more than four percent in early trading on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, and by around 1.30 CET they were trading up 3.17 percent at nearly 96 kronor ($12.51).

But Martin-Löf underlined to the newspaper that no discussions were currently ongoing with the French firm nor did he have any concrete information regarding plans to offload the stock.

Dagens Industri’s report came amidst speculation in Swedish and international media that France’s Renault, which is Volvo’s largest stakeholder with 21 percent of shares, would divest itself of its holdings in the Swedish truckmaker.

Industrivärden currently holds 8.5 percent of Volvo Group, which makes trucks, buses and boat and aircraft equipment, but does not include the Volvo Cars brand.

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Sweden’s Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings

Swedish truck maker Volvo Group was hit by a sharp drop in earnings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but business rebounded at the end of the year.

Sweden's Volvo regains strength after pandemic puts brakes on earnings
Volvo Group CEO Martin Lundstedt. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

In 2020, the group saw “dramatic fluctuations in demand” due to the Covid-19 pandemic, chief executive Martin Lundstedt said in a statement.

For 2021, Volvo raised its sales forecasts in its trucks division – its core business – in Europe, North America and Brazil.

However, it said it also expected “production disturbances and increased costs” due to a “strained” supply chain, noting a global shortage of semiconductors across industries.

The truck making sector is particularly sensitive to the global economic situation and is usually hard hit during crises.

In March, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Volvo suspended operations at most of its sites in 18 countries and halted production at Renault Trucks, which it owns, in Belgium and France.

Operations gradually resumed mid-year, but not enough to compensate for the drop in earnings.

With annual sales down 22 percent to 338 billion kronor (33.4 billion euros, $40 billion), the group posted a 46 percent plunge in net profit to 19.3 billion kronor (1.9 billion euros).

Operating margin fell from 11.5 to 8.1 percent.

However, the group did manage to cut costs by 20 percent.

“We have significantly improved our volume and cost flexibility, which were crucial factors behind our earnings resilience in 2020,” the group said.

Volvo's business regained strength in the second half of the year.

“Customer usage of trucks and machines increased when the Covid-19 restrictions were eased during the summer and this development continued during both the third and fourth quarters,” it said.

“Both the transport activity and the construction business are back at levels on par with the prior year in most markets.”

For the fourth quarter alone, the company reported a 38-percent rise in net profit from a year earlier.