PARIS May 13 Activist investor Guy Wyser-Pratte
said he is seeking board seats at French phone directories
company PagesJaunes to force its biggest shareholder -
U.S. private equity firm Cerberus - to cut the group's debt.
PagesJaunes has been struggling with big debts since a
private equity buyout of the company in 2006. The firm has also
had to cope with the impact of the Internet on its printed
Wyser-Pratte, a U.S. investor who focuses on European
companies, has built up a 0.85 percent stake in PagesJaunes,
which he said was enough to mount a challenge to Cerberus
Cerberus became PagesJaunes' biggest shareholder, with 28
percent of voting rights, via the purchase of debt from
Mediannuaire, a holding company controlled by Goldman Sachs
Group and private equity firm KKR & Co.
A restructuring earlier this year has cut the debt but
Wyser-Pratte said this had not done enough for PagesJaunes.
"These people have left them hocked up to the eyeballs, and
it's not right," told Reuters on Monday. "That's the first goal,
get this thing renegotiated, and with two people on the board
... I think we've got a good shot at it."
He plans to seek investor support to vote himself and Pierre
Nollett as independent directors at PagesJaunes' June 5
Wyser-Pratte said his 0.85 percent stake was enough to
propose resolutions for the annual meeting.
"We're on the side of management," he said. "They feel like
they've gotten short shrift. They're in shackles with this
Cerberus was not immediately available for comment.
PagesJaunes' net debt was more than four times its earnings
before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation in 2012,
compared with an industry average of 0.78 times, according to
Thomson Reuters data.
PagesJaunes said it had received a letter from Wyser-Pratte
demanding the appointment of two board members. The company
declined further comment.
Shares in PagesJaunes, which is renaming itself Solocal
Group, rose 4.2 percent.
"Guy Wyser-Pratte's activist stance is fuelling speculation
on the stock," Gilbert Dupont analyst Jean-Baptiste Sergeant
said. "If he manages to unite the minority shareholders, he'll
seek a sale to a big group and work out the problem of the