PARIS Feb 14 Shares in French waste and water management group Veolia fell on Friday after a news report that shareholder Dassault is seeking to oust Veolia's Chief Executive Antoine Frerot and replace him with a state official.
According to French magazine Le Point, which did not name its sources, several Veolia's board members met this week to discuss how to unseat Frerot and replace him with David Azema, current chief of the agency overlooking state investments in companies.
Le Point said Azema is being pushed forward by French industrial holding Dassault, Veolia's second-biggest shareholder with about 6 percent of shares, and which has managed to rally several board members to its case.
The French state is Veolia's largest shareholder with close to 9 percent of shares. The Finance Ministry declined to comment. Veolia, the world's largest private supplier of drinking water, also declined to comment. Nobody at Dassault nor Azema's office was immediately reachable for comment.
Frerot, whose mandate expires in April, was already in 2012 the target of a failed board coup led by former Veolia boss Henri Proglio, currently the head of state-controlled utilities group EDF.
Veolia is now in the midst of a restructuring involving 1,600 job cuts as it unwinds a decade of geographic expansion and acquisitions.
Shares in Veolia were 1 percent lower at 0835 GMT, the third-biggest loser in a flat CAC 40.
"All this noise is never a positive as Veolia is deeply focused on its new strategic plan," a Paris-based trader said. (Reporting by Natalie Huet; Additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey and Blaise Robinson; editing by Mark John)