Swiss-Irish food group Aryzta has awarded its European boss Hilliard Lombard more than €5.5 million in stock options and elevated him to the company's senior executive team.
The move comes as chief executive Owen Killian battles to halt a slide in investor confidence linked to concerns about its acquisition strategy and the underlying health of its US business.
The frozen bakery specialist, best known here for its Cuisine De France brand, notified the Irish Stock Exchange this week it had awarded Mr Lombard 150,000 shares, worth 40.59 Swiss francs (€37.45) each, equivalent to more than half the entire allocation to senior executives last year.
The company separately confirmed to The Irish Times that Mr Lombard had recently been added to the group's five-man senior executive management team.
The team also includes Mr Killian, chief financial officer Patrick McEniff, group general counsel
, and chief executive of the Americas John Yamin.
Aryzta’s shares have dropped by nearly 50 per cent since January amid concern about its recent acquisition of a 49 per cent stake in French frozen food group Picard for €446 million, deemed expensive by industry standards.
The shares sell-off has also been linked to the under-performance of its North American business, which lists McDonald's and Subway among its clients.
Aryzta surprised market observers last week by announcing the sale of its remaining 29 per cent stake in agri-services group Origin Enterprises for €228 million, saying it would bolster its balance sheet. The company raised just over €400 million from the sale of 49 million shares in Origin in March, which it used to fund the Picard deal.
The relationship between Aryzta and Origin dates back to 2006, when the old Irish Agriculture Wholesale Society (IAWS) established Origin to separate its agri-services and food businesses. The remaining part of IAWS merged with Swiss food group Hiestand in 2007 to form Aryzta.