Aryzta shareholder group hits back against ‘misleading’ statements

Veraison-led group said it offered to submit board candidates for evaluation

Activist shareholders have taken issue with statement  from the board of Cuisine de France parent, Aryzta. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Activist shareholders have taken issue with statement from the board of Cuisine de France parent, Aryzta. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Conflict at frozen baked goods group Aryzta between the board and a group of activist shareholders escalated on Wednesday as the Veraison-led group hit back against what it said were “misleading” statements by the board.

The shareholder group welcomed the news that outgoing chairman Gary McGann would step down from the group best known in Ireland for its Cuisine de France range, without conditions.

“We conclude from the company’s statement yesterday that the strategic review has been completed without an acceptable offer for the company being made,” Veraison said.

“This can now be the start of an independent transformation of Aryzta driven by the bakery industry expertise and proven leadership skills of the candidates proposed by the shareholder group.”

However, it took issue with claims that the three people it has nominated for board positions at the group had been unwilling to participate in a formal evaluation process.

It said an offer to do so had been made to directors of Aryzta in a letter at the end of last month, and was repeated on August 10th.

“It is inexplicable that the offer was ignored by the board of directors of Aryzta,” Veraison said in a statement.

The dissident shareholder group, which includes Aryzta’s largest shareholder Cobas, is seeking changes to the company’s board in a bid to reverse the decline in shareholder value, which is down more than 80 per cent since late 2018.

It is proposing the nomination of Urs Jordi, Heiner Kamps and Armin Bieri as independent candidates to the board, and has called for the removal of chief executive Kevin Toland from his role on the board.

The latter has been rejected by Aryzta. And, in a statement on Tuesday, the Aryzta board that it could not support the candidates proposed by the shareholder group as it had “refused” to submit the candidates for evaluation. It is this claim that Veraison is disputing.

Veraison said its nominated directors represented “a new chapter in the company’s history”, were committed to creating shareholder value, and would take the interests of all stakeholders into account.

Aryzta is due to hold an extraordinary general meeting on September 16th, at which the board will propose businessman Andreas Schmid as the new chairman. The Veraison-led group has already voiced its opposition to that, odescribeing his nomination as not in the best interest of the bakery group.