Coulson lines up former KPMG Ireland head as possible Ardagh successor

‘I plan to stay with the business but . . . no one goes on forever,’ says chief executive

Dublin-born financier Paul Coulson has hired former KPMG Ireland head Shaun Murphy as chief operating officer of his Ardagh Group, lining up a potential successor to the billionaire at the helm of the $12.3 billion (€11.1 billion) glass bottle and metal cans group.

Mr Coulson (67) told analysts on a call on Thursday, after Ardagh reported quarterly results, that the appointment of Mr Murphy (52), who recently completed a six-year term as managing partner at KPMG Ireland, was “part of long-term succession planning”.

“I plan to stay with the business but, you know, like everyone, no one goes on forever,” said Mr Coulson, who remains group chairman and chief executive and whose indirect 33 per cent equity holding in Ardagh is currently worth $1.4 billion. “Succession planning is important.”

New York-listed Ardagh Group, whose enterprise value stands at $12.3 billion, including $8.19 billion of debt, reported on Thursday that it generated revenue of $2.26 billion in the second quarter, while earnings per share rose 16 per cent to $0.29. Profit increased from $58 million in the second quarter of last year to $69 million in the same period this year.


Poor results

Europe posted poor results with glass packaging revenues down 2 per cent to $412 in the three-month period and metal packaging revenues down 6 per cent to $874 million.

Mr Murphy, a KPMG partner for almost two decades, will join Ardagh on September 16th. With the head of the group's global glass business Johan Gorter set to retire later this year, Martin Petersson, chief executive of the European glass division, and Bertrand Paulet, chief executive of the North American glass unit, will report to Mr Murphy.

Earlier this month Ardagh announced it was merging its food and speciality cans unit with Exal, a business owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan Board that makes similar products and has clients including Kraft, Mondalex and AB Inbev.

Ardagh will retain a 43 per cent stake in the joint venture, called Trivium, and use a $2.5 billion cash payment it is receiving for the assets it is putting into the partnership to reduce its overall debt.

Takeover approaches

Mr Coulson told analysts on Thursday’s call that Ardagh had received a number of takeover approaches for the food cans division over the past year, but wanted to continue to have a stake in the business.

“Far from exiting, we see this as a vehicle that will grow significant value for us over the coming years,” he said.

Ardagh will continue to have a wholly owned beverage cans business that it acquired three years ago.

As a result of the Exal agreement, the chief executive of Ardagh's metal division, David Wall, has decided to step down. Two divisional chief executives of the metal division will now also report to Mr Murphy.

Ardagh traces its roots back to the 1932 formation of the Irish Glass Bottle Company in Dublin and has been transformed since Mr Coulson bought an initial stake in 1998 and became its chairman. Ardagh has spent about €7.5 billion on a series of acquisitions since then. It switched from reporting figures in euro to dollars early last year.

The group reiterated its full-year forecast that earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) will amount to at least $1.5 billion, before the impact of the food and speciality cans deal. Last year’s ebitda amounted to $1.48 billion.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business