Hedge fund to force shareholder vote on Nexans CEO

PARIS, April 15 Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:22am EDT

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PARIS, April 15 (Reuters) - Nexans shareholder Amber Capital said it plans to force a vote on a resolution to push Chairman and Chief Executive Frederic Vincent off the board at the cable maker's annual shareholders meeting on May 15.

Hedge fund Amber, which has a 5.5 percent stake and is the Paris-listed company's fourth-largest shareholder, knows it has little chance of success but plans to submit the resolution later on Tuesday in protest against what it sees as poor performance since Vincent took over the job in 2009, Amber managing partner Olivier Fortesa told Reuters by telephone.

The resolution will be based on an Oct. 31 request from Amber to split the chairman and CEO functions, in line with Anglo-Saxon corporate governance norms, a request which was denied two weeks later, Fortesa said.

"The worsening of the (performance) situation, which has accelerated over the course of recent months, is very worrying and requires urgent action," a draft of the resolution sent to Reuters said.

Shareholders have the power to vote Vincent off the board, and thereby end his rein as chairman, even though only the board itself has the power to remove him as CEO.

Fortesa said the performance gap between Nexans and its main competitor, Prysmian, "has been widening year after year".

Nexans stock has tumbled by about 44 percent in the past three years, while Prysmian shares have gained 13 percent over the same period and the broad STOXX Europe 600 index is up 16 percent.

"We've tried to alert the board and we have no other choice but to turn to shareholders and basically force a split of function by asking for a vote to remove Frederic Vincent as a board member," Fortesa said.

Nexans' dominant shareholder with 28 percent is Invexans, a holding company run as a separate business from the 70-year-old Chilean copper goods business Madeco, where it has its roots.

The second- and third-largest shareholdings belong to Manning & Napier Advisors, a U.S. value fund, and BPI, the French government investment vehicle, both with just under 8 percent. BPI bought its stake in 2009 to "stabilise and reinforce" its shareholder base.

A Nexans spokeswoman said: "These issues will be dealt with at the AGM and the management has no comment to make at this stage." (Reporting by Andrew Callus and Blaise Robinson; Editing by James Regan)

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