Veolia chief executive Antoine Frerot pledged to focus on restructuring the troubled water and waste company, dismissing media reports that his predecessor was trying to oust him as a “destabilisation attempt” in a letter to staff.
Shares in the water and waste group fell by 3 per cent on Monday after French media reported former boss Henri Proglio was pushing for a change in leadership at Veolia, which is restructuring to cut its debt following two profit warnings.
Heavily indebted Veolia, which had its credit rating cut by rating agency Moody’s earlier this month, was expected to post a full-year loss of 200 million euros ($263 million) on March 1, weekly magazine Challenges said. Veolia shares closed down 3 per cent at 9.29 euros, taking their loss above 60 per cent over the past 12 months.
“Together we need to face up to this destabilisation attempt,” Frerot wrote to his staff on Monday in a letter seen by Reuters, adding that they could count on his “complete motivation to see the restructuring of Veolia Environnement through successfully.”
“Our company has always taken care to stay out of political debates, at all times and all places, even and above all during a time of elections,” he added.
Proglio, chief executive of state-controlled utility EDF and a Veolia board director, has proposed the board remove chief executive Antoine Frerot at a Feb.29 meeting, Les Echos and Le Figaro newspapers said, citing unnamed sources. But a source close to EDF’s thinking said that the decision to replace Frerot came from the majority of Veolia’s top shareholders, stressing that EDF was not the most powerful shareholder within Veolia’s board and that Proglio had nothing personal against Frerot.