Vestas investors seek inquiry into profit warnings

Mon Jan 14, 2013 8:29am EST

* Call for probe into accounting and revenue guidance

* Vestas recommends shareholders vote against request

* Shareholders could consider compensation claim

By Teis Jensen and Mia Shanley

COPENHAGEN, Jan 14 (Reuters) - A group of more than 100 Vestas shareholders is pressing for an independent investigation and possible compensation for the wind turbine manufacturer's plummeting share price.

The move puts shareholders on a collision course with the company, which says that fresh investigations into its performance in recent years would be an unnecessary distraction.

The world's biggest wind turbine manufacturer has struggled in a sector suffering from overcapacity, a weak global economy and a reduction in subsidies for renewable energy production by cash-strapped governments.

It has axed jobs, stopped non-profitable projects, shut factories and sought new lines of credit to get through the downturn.

Deminor Recovery Services, which says it represents the interests of 105 institutional investors from Europe, the United States and Asia, has asked that an independent auditor investigate events leading up to several profit warnings by Vestas and whether the company was overly optimistic on its revenue guidance.

"These investors are not satisfied with the company's performance," Erik Bomans, a managing partner at Deminor, told Reuters.

"First of all, they want to know whether it is possible to recover some of those losses if this really went wrong. Secondly, they want the company to perform better in the future ... Because our clients are of the opinion that the company did not correctly communicate with investors over the past couple of years."

RESIGNATIONS

Deminor said that it also wants clarification about the resignations of former Chief Financial Officer Henrik Norremark and Investor Relations Officer Peter Kruse.

Shares in Vestas, battling to restore investor confidence after profit warnings in 2011 and 2012, remain down about 95 percent from their highs of 2008.

Bomans declined to reveal the percentage of Vestas shares that Deminor's clients hold, but he said that he believed the request would gain a majority of votes at the AGM scheduled for Mar. 21.

Vestas said in a statement that the board of directors recommends that shareholders vote against the request, saying that it concerns issues that have already been reviewed fully or are otherwise being investigated by the board.

"Additional investigations will be unnecessary and only obstruct the work of the board and impose needless costs on the company," it said.

Asked whether investors could use the results of any investigation to take legal action against the company, Bomans said: "It is a possibility. But the main objective of this request is to get the information and to help the company to improve its governance."

Vestas shares were down 6.6 percent at 1205 GMT, compared with a broadly unchanged top-20 Copenhagen market index .

Jacob Pedersen, an analyst at Sydbank, said the news of the request had added to uncertainties surrounding the shares.

"I cannot rule out the scrutiny being carried by the majority when I hear how many big investors are behind this," he said. (Additional reporting by Kristian Mortensen; Editing by David Goodman)

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