Wednesday 26 April 2017

How much longer can under-fire Killian remain in Aryzta post?

Aryzta chief Owen Killian
Aryzta chief Owen Killian

Aryzta has been in a funk for two years - and now things have got even worse.

Chief executive Owen Killian got a rough ride on a call with analysts yesterday. "I would have a very simple question, and this is what's really the problem with Aryzta?" Vontobel's Jean Phillipe Bertschy said. That's what a lot of people are asking.

It all started when the company announced it was spending €450m on a 49pc stake in French frozen food retailer Picard. That deal was poorly received by the market and since then billions in shareholder value has vaporised.

Management has defended its strategy since then - and Killian was adamant yesterday that there was no structural problem at the company.

"Our North American team presented to a large number of your colleagues in October of this year. And we were very confident in terms of our business plans, our partnerships with our large customers, our go-to-market strategy, our brand development capability across the business and all of that remains intact," Killian told analysts yesterday. He said the company had been caught "offside" by the North American problems that fuelled the profit warning, admitting that he was "extremely concerned ... in terms of where we're at today in terms of issuing a profit warning of this magnitude, which was totally unanticipated".

If analysts aren't impressed, just imagine how shareholders must be feeling. The appointment of corporate heavyweight Gary McGann as chairman sparked high hopes of a turnaround. However investors lost an awful lot of their wealth yesterday - and they may never get it back.

Killian was forced to sell shares in the company last year because of a margin call relating to a personal investment and this is another embarrassment for him. How much longer can this go on for?

Irish Independent

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