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Top Ferro official Kirsch steps down

By: Frank Esposito

November 14, 2012

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, OHIO (Nov. 14, 7 a.m. ET) — Ferro Corp. Chairman, President and CEO James Kirsch has resigned, less than three weeks after the specialty chemicals firm posted a third-quarter loss of more than $300 million.

Kirsch had been with Ferro since 2004 and had held the firm’s top positions since 2005, following the sudden death of Hector Ortino. Ferro executive Peter Thomas now will serve as interim president and CEO, while board member William Lawrence will serve as acting chairman. Thomas had been operating vice president of the firm’s Polymer and Ceramic Engineered Materials unit.

On Oct. 29, Ferro - based in Mayfield Heights, Ohio - reported a third-quarter loss of almost $316 million, due in large part to a severe downturn in the market for conductive pastes used in solar cells. The firm’s third-quarter sales tumbled 24 percent to less than $415 million.

Ferro ranks as one of North America’s largest polypropylene compounders, and also produces color and additive concentrates. That business has been a bit of a bright spot for Ferro this year, with nine-month profit up more than 60 percent to $12.2 million, even as sales were flat at $132.5 million. Through September, Specialty Plastics accounted for about 10 percent of Ferro’s total sales, ranking fifth among the firm’s six business units.

Ferro’s struggles have taken a toll on the firm’s per-share stock price. It began the year around $5 and reached above $7 in early February, but then began a steady descent, closing under $2.70 on Nov. 13.