UPDATE 3-Vestas takes confidence blow as CFO departs

Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:27pm EDT

* Appoints Marika Fredriksson as new CFO

* Says current CFO to leave for personal reasons

* Shares close down 2.8 percent

By Mette Fraende

COPENHAGEN, April 15 (Reuters) - Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas said its chief financial officer (CFO) had stood down after less than a year in the post, dealing a blow to the company in its attempts to win back investor confidence.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S has suffered several profit warnings as the wind power market takes a downturn, due to falling subsidies from cash-strapped governments, tough competition and global economic uncertainties.

The company said in a statement on Monday CFO Dag Andresen would leave for personal reasons, to be replaced by Swedish national Marika Fredriksson, former CFO of Autoliv , the world's biggest maker of car safety equipment such as seat belts.

At Autoliv, Fredriksson was involved in securing finance in difficult conditions during the financial crisis and subsequently gained first-hand experience of a major takeover at dialysis products maker Gambro.

"She is a very operational CFO (who) ... doesn't shy away from anything," a former colleague said.

Vestas gave no detailed explanation for Andresen's departure and the outgoing CFO could not be reached for comment.

"He (Andresen) was very very important, almost a front figure, in the attempt to win investor confidence back for Vestas," said Sydbank analyst Jacob Pedersen.

The company's shares, which had spiked to a near six-month high of 49.95 crowns as recently as late March, fell as much as 5 percent and closed down 2.8 percent against a 0.8 percent fall in the Copenhagen stock exchange benchmark index.

"It is a problem for Vestas in the short term because the shares trade on confidence, not on fundamentals," said Alm Brand analyst Michael Jorgensen.

Andresen had taken up the position as CFO last August following the resignation of predecessor Henrik Norremark, who was held responsible for a second profit warning in three months.

The profit warnings shook confidence in the company's prospects and prompted a sweeping reorganisation, including the election of a new chairman, Bert Nordberg, as well as job cuts, the halting of unprofitable projects and factory closures.

The company had in February offered some hope its turnaround plan is beginning to bear fruit, flagging an improvement in profitability this year and reported a rise in fourth-quarter profit and revenue.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Incoming Fredriksson has 15 years of CFO experience with groups including Volvo Construction Equipment and Autoliv. She also has extensive experience in turnaround processes, change management and mergers and acquisitions, Vestas said.

"In Marika Fredriksson we have found a new CFO with the calibre and capabilities (needed in) addressing Vestas' needs," said Nordberg in the statement.

Fredriksson, who will take over as CFO on May 1, became CFO of Autoliv just as Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, raising pressure on the job of CFO of the Stockholm-based company.

Autoliv, among whose top customers General Motors was then fighting for survival, saw credit rating agency Standard & Poor's cut its rating by three notches, but Fredriksson and her treasury team still secured financing on acceptable terms via the bond market and through a 225 million euro ($294.4 million)European Investment Bank loan.

While a struggle for financing took centre stage during her 2008-2009 tenure at Autoliv, Fredriksson found herself involved in a different form of corporate drama after joining unlisted Gambro as CFO in 2009.

The company was sold by the Wallenberg business family's Investor AB and its partly owned private equity company EQT to U.S.-based Baxter International in a $4 billion deal late last year.

Fredriksson remains a board member at Ferronordic Machines, a dealer for Volvo Construction Equipment throughout Russia which counts Swedish investors such as financier Rune Andersson's Mellby Gard among its top shareholders.

"I don't think we will see any change in Vestas' focus on restructuring the group," said Nykredit analyst Klaus Kehl.

"The strategy will remain unchanged: to bring down the group's costs. That was the case yesterday and that will be the case tomorrow," Kehl said.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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