– Being CEO of Hydro is 24/7 – E24

– Being CEO of Hydro is 24/7 – E24

Outgoing CEO Hilda Mereti Asheim believes Hydro will leave in good stead as a successor. – Now I'm looking forward to a long summer vacation.

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– This is a process that has been going on for some time, says Hilda Mereti Asheim.

On Thursday morning, news came that Hydro's CEO of five years had stepped down. On May 13, she will be replaced by former CFO and now head of Hydro's aluminum sector, Eyvind Kalevik.

– This is not exciting at all. I had a dialogue with the board, called them in the fall and said we now had to start planning. Ultimately, every leader must consider when it's time to hand over the baton, Asheim says.

She notes that over the past five years, Asheim has worked to increase profitability and make Hydro more sustainable.

She is happy that the company always recruits a new director from its ranks.

– In a good Hydro spirit, we develop our leaders. Asheim says this is the thirteenth in a row to come from the internal ranks.

– what will you do now what do you do now?

– Being CEO of Hydro is 24/7. During the holidays and all, there's always something going on at a big company like Hydro. I was on All the way, Ashim says.

She adds: – Now I look forward to a long summer vacation.

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Consider board positions

Asaheim has spent many years in senior-level heavy-duty jobs at industrial giants Elkem and Hydro. She now looks forward to being able to set her own agenda and have more flexibility.

– Obviously I will do something. That could be board positions, it could be community work, or things that I haven't had the opportunity to do in the kind of presence that I've had in recent years.

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– I didn't feel like I sacrificed anything, but you have to on Along the way, it takes on the task. I think it's been great to lead such a great company. “But I have come to the conclusion that the time is right for me and Hydro, and I am proud that Eivind will take over,” says Asheim.

Hydro CEO Hilde Merete Aasheim during a visit to the company's facility in Ardal in 2020.

– Stands on shoulders

– What is the biggest change you have made at Hydro since taking over from Svein Richard Brandtzæg in 2019?

– I stand on the shoulders of what Sven Richard created. After all, it made major acquisitions in Brazil and in Saba, which means that today the company has the entire value chain under one roof, says Asheim.

In 2010, Hydro bought a large-scale raw materials business such as bauxite and alumina from Vale in Brazil for $30 billion. In 2017, Hydro acquired Orkla's stake in Sapa in an agreement that valued the extrusion business at $27 billion. Saba provides everything from auto parts to electronics and building materials such as windows and doors.

– Then I entered my term, and it was important then to secure the company's profitability and work more sustainably, says Aashim.

Under her leadership, Hydro launched improvement programs to reduce costs. Achem has also taken Hydro in a green direction, by betting on reducing emissions in the company's operations in Brazil, among other things, and investing more in renewable energy through Hydro Reign.

Hilde Merete Asheim with Yara CEO Sven Tore Holsether and Aker CEO Øyvind Eriksen, here in relation to last year's suggestion that Norway needs more power to implement the green transition.

Low emission products

Achem has also invested heavily in low-emission aluminium, with products such as Reduxa and Circal.

-We see that customers are coming to us much more and asking for low carbon aluminum. Not only do they put aluminum in the car or window, but they start to count on their carbon footprint. Steel and aluminum account for 25 percent of the world's carbon emissions, so we need to reduce our footprint, says Asheim.

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Was there any opposition from investors to this plan?

– We had a strategy for 2025 and we developed a strategy for 2030 with the Board of Directors last year. We explained that at the capital market day in November, and we received very good support from the shareholder community that this is the direction for Hydro, says Asheim.

“I feel very confident that Eivind will take the ball forward,” she says.

40 years in the industry

The Hydro director has chosen to resign himself. She receives a salary until her retirement at the end of June, and then receives a pension scheme.

Hilde Merete Asheim, like a number of other senior managers, is well paid, with compensation totaling NOK 15.3 million last year and NOK 15.7 million the year before.

However, Aasheim would not comment on the company's salary terms, leaving that to Hydro president Dag Mejdell. He says Kalevik will receive a somewhat lower base salary than Achim, and will end up getting roughly the same compensation she did, depending somewhat on Hydro's results.

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-There is also a market for managers. We were keen to get the best manager to lead Hydro in the coming years, Mejdell tells E24.

-We are one of the largest industrial companies in Norway, and in this sense important for Norwegian society. We think it is very important that this is also reflected in the salary conditions, so that whoever holds this position also receives compensation that matches it, says Majdel.

– Good coverage on power

There aren't just bright clouds on the horizon for Norsk Hydro. The company owns a number of smelters in Norway, and the industry has also been concerned about the possibility of higher electricity prices than before and the government's tightening of carbon dioxide offsetting, which will offset the impact of EU climate policy on electricity prices.

– We have good energy coverage until 2030, but we are already working now to ensure that we can maintain this situation. Asheim says renewable energy is the entire foundation of low-carbon production.

– Then we are interested in predictable framework conditions. “In recent years, we've seen state budget cuts, which we don't really like, because it reduces predictability,” she says.

The day after news of Asheim's departure, the government and industry agreed changes to make the carbon dioxide offset scheme more sustainable.

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– He makes you feel right

– How do you feel after leaving your position after five years as president and 17 years with the company?

– 17 years at Hydro and 20 years at Elkem, so I have been in the industry for almost 40 years now, says Asheim.

-It feels right. I am very proud that on a day like this, we can do this smoothly and in good water tradition. “I'm proud of Eivind, who has now worked with me for the past five years, and we've worked together for many years, because we've got a good leader for Hydro who will take the helm,” says Asheim.

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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