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Aryzta shareholder group angry at board's EGM 'delaying tactics'

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Ouster: Shareholders are seeking the removal of Aryzta chairman Gary McGann from the board

Ouster: Shareholders are seeking the removal of Aryzta chairman Gary McGann from the board

Ouster: Shareholders are seeking the removal of Aryzta chairman Gary McGann from the board

A group of Aryzta shareholders led by Veraison Capital say they regret "the delaying tactics of the board of directors" in relation to the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), which they requested be held last month.

The group, which together owns about 18pc of the Swiss-Irish company, are seeking to remove Aryzta CEO Kevin Toland from the board and eject chairman Gary McGann.

The Cuisine de France owner has said it will hold the EGM in August following a strategic review of the business, which is within the period allowed for holding the meeting.

Mr Toland, who the activists want to see remain as CEO, was parachuted into the company in 2017 to help turn the group around. Aryzta's customers include the likes of McDonald's and Subway, as well as big-name retailers.

The activist shareholders want to oust four board members and replace the chairman with their own nominee.

"The deliberate delay of the EGM leads to the unacceptable situation that the strategy review announced at short notice on 13 May should be completed before EGM and thus before a comprehensive renewal of the board of directors," Veraison said in a statement yesterday.

"Since 2017, the existing board of directors has failed to set the right strategic course to focus and reduce the complexity of Aryzta.

"This has led to enormous value destruction for shareholders. It is unacceptable that before a renewal of the board and without taking all stakeholders into account, the strategy review, neglected for a long time, is now to be concluded on short notice with an investment bank," it said.

"Under no circumstances can this be in the best interests of the company."

In the lengthy statement, Veraison said the determination of company strategy should be carried out by a board "that manages the company on behalf of the shareholders over the longer term".

"We are convinced that the proven industry expertise of the independent candidates Urs Jordi, Heiner Kamps and Armin Bieri would bring valuable expertise to the ongoing strategy process," it added.

Last month Aryzta hired Rothschild to advise it - a move that suggests no option, including a sale or radical restructuring, is off the table.

When contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday a spokesperson for Aryzta said it had noted the statement from Veraison, declining to comment further.

In a trading update last month that covered the three months to April 30, Aryzta's third-quarter organic revenue slumped 21.5pc year on year as the coronavirus pandemic struck. Overall revenues fell 24pc to €644.2m.

Trading had been in line with expectations until March 15 and then suffered badly as lockdowns and business closures were imposed across the globe.

Over the three months it was most badly hit in its European market, where revenue declined by 23.5pc.

In North America, turnover fell by 20.4pc.

Shares in the group were down over 5pc in Dublin yesterday afternoon.

Irish Independent