ARYZTA CEO Kevin Toland has insisted he intends to remain with the baked-goods giant even as activist shareholders seek to remove him from the board and eject chairman Gary McGann.
"I came for a reason, I'm here for a reason and I'm doing everything to help this company become very, very successful and there is not an iota of change or intent in any of that," he told the Irish Independent.
Mr Toland was parachuted into the Cuisine De France owner in 2017 to help turn around the group, whose customers include the likes of McDonald's and Subway, as well as big-name retailers.
Activist shareholders Veraison and Cobas, which together own 17.8pc of the Swiss-Irish firm, have called for an extraordinary general meeting at which they want to oust four board members and replace the chairman with their own nominee. That EGM is due to be held in August.
And while third-quarter revenue figures and performance data released by Aryzta yesterday laid bare the devastating impact the pandemic is having on the business, Mr Toland pointed to "green shoots" and the firm's swift actions and solid liquidity position in defending how management have dealt with the crisis.
Aryzta's third-quarter organic revenue slumped 21.5pc year-on-year as the pandemic struck, with overall revenues falling 24pc to €644.2m.
Trading had been in line with expectations until March 15 and then suffered badly as lockdowns and business closures occurred across the globe.
Shares in the group soared as much as 17pc at one stage in Zurich yesterday, shedding a big chunk of that gain later in the day, but adding to a more than 12pc jump on Monday.
Mr Toland declined to say if he believed the turnaround strategy implemented by him and the board, and its outcome to date, has been overlooked by investors.
"My job is to run the company to make sure we're doing the right things for the company and make sure that we keep our shareholders up to speed on the issues, challenges, progress and strategy," he said.
"It's absolutely a matter for them to determine themselves what they think."
Mr Toland said the company had acted quickly in the face of the crisis, adjusting its operations and finances to reflect the new working environment. It has secured waivers on covenant tests that give it breathing space until next summer.
"It's very clear that we have shown that even when we have a crisis running like this one, we can generate and keep the cash in the house as we need to," said Aryzta chief financial officer Frederic Pflanz.
"One naturally cannot run a company 24 or 36 months on a crisis basis. But I do believe that one can run a company the way we're doing it, if we keep quiet and calm and do it well, for quite some months."
Mr Pflanz said that the company has stress-tested a number of possible scenarios.
"Covid costs will be what they will be," he said. "But the underlying business is a cash-generating business, I'm confident for the months to come. This is why we went to lenders, and we asked for a covenant waiver for two periods, which gives us the time to work through it."
Aryzta employs more than 15,000 people, one-third of whom are now furloughed or working part-time.