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BW Businessworld

Hindalco Industries American Unit Ousts CEO

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Top aluminum rolled products maker Novelis announced on Monday the surprise ouster of Chief Executive Officer Philip Martens who helped the India-owned firm shift toward the automotive sector.
 
The abrupt departure over the weekend of Martens, a former Ford executive who took over the role in 2009, comes as Novelis has successfully positioned itself as a key supplier of flat rolled aluminum products to the automotive industry, where demand for the lighter metal is burgeoning as automakers seek to design more energy-efficient vehicles.
 
Novelis spokesman Neil Hirsch did not specify a reason for the board's decision to terminate Martens, adding that the company would maintain its focus on premium products under interim CEO Steve Fisher, who previously served as chief financial officer and was instated effective immediately.
 
"They decided it was the appropriate time for new leadership," Hirsch told Reuters, adding that the April 1 start of the Indian fiscal year was a factor in t1he timing. "While this is a change in leadership, it's not a change in strategy."
 
Martens could not immediately be reached for comment. The search for Martens' permanent replacement is currently under way, Novelis said on Monday.
 
Atlanta-based Novelis is a unit of Indian group Hindalco Industries, a flagship company of the Mumbai-based conglomerate Aditya Birla Group.
 
Martens joined Novelis two years after it was acquired by Hindalco following its 2005 spinoff from aluminum producer Alcan Inc., now part of Rio Tinto Alcan.
 
He spent most of his career in the automotive industry, including 18 years at Ford, which is a Novelis customer and a big supporter of the shift from steel to aluminum in body sheet following the launch of the aluminum-intensive F-150 truck in January 2014.
 
Martens' termination comes after Novelis set records in aluminum shipments for the can and automotive industries in the third quarter of fiscal year 2015, as it neared full capacity in its production of automotive sheet for Ford.
 
"That's a groundbreaking application for them," one market source said of Novelis' dealings with Ford, adding that he was "dumbfounded" to learn of Martens' departure.
 
The sudden move amid solid performance from the company in recent quarters took many in the market by surprise.
 
"This is a big shake-up," one trader said.
 
(Reuters)