Investors baffled by mixed messages

Aryzta and Valeant chief executives in limelight for differing yet similar reasons

Analysts and investors baffled after conference call with Valeant Pharmaceuticals chief executive Michael Pearson.

It has been a deeply worrying week for investors in two companies that have found themselves in the spotlight for reasons that are at once very different and yet quite similar.

Aryzta's once high-flying chief executive Owen Killian was forced yesterday to publish an extraordinary statement after selling around two-thirds of his entire holding in the company he has built up, just as its shares flounder in the wake of underwhelming results.

In it he said: "I regret having to sell down shares at this time. This decision was triggered by the weakness in the share price impacting the collateral value of the share. It is not indicative of my confidence in or commitment to Aryzta and the achievement of its goals."

Maybe not, but it will be interesting to see what already restless shareholders will make of him getting himself in a position where he is a forced seller of company shares as a director, at precisely a time when most directors would be expressing their confidence in their business by buying shares. Indicative of commitment to the company is not the first thought that springs to mind.

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Killian was instrumental in the successful integration of Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society with Aryzta to create an international powerhouse in the food sector, but past glories tend to count for little when shareholders get rattled.

The same position faces Mike Pearson, the beleaguered chief executive of Canadian specialty pharma business Valeant, who returned from protracted sick leave just in time to host a conference call that left analysts and investors baffled and see his company put out a press release with a $600 million typo.

Valeant, which has been under pressure for some time over its business methods, also cut its forecast for the year as US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made drug pricing one of the focal points of her campaign – in large part on the back of the Valeant crisis.

However you look at it this Cheltenham week, the odds of either boss remaining in their current position for the long term are fairly skinny.