November 19, 2018 / 6:22 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Panalpina's chairman to leave in May; activist had demanded he quit

(Adds comments from Panalpina’s two largest shareholders)

ZURICH, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Swiss logistics company Panalpina said on Monday that Chairman Peter Ulber would not stand for re-election at the next annual general meeting in May, clearing the way for an independent candidate to take over the job.

The air and sea freight company has come under pressure to change its chairman from activist shareholder Cevian Capital, which has a 12.3 percent stake.

Following the announcement, Sweden-based Cevian’s co-founder Lars Forberg said he welcomed Ulber’s decision to quit next year.

Last month, Forberg had told Swiss magazine Bilanz that Cevian should replace its chairman and should be open to mergers.

Panalpina declined to comment on Ulber’s reason for leaving. Ulber said his decision not to stand for re-election was in the best interest of Panalpina and all of its stakeholders.

“The long term goals of the company are best served by electing an independent chairman of the board at this time to further improve on a best in class governance,” Ulber said in a statement.

Separately, Switzerland’s Ernst Goehner Foundation, Panalpina’s biggest shareholder with 45.9 percent, said it would go along with other large investors and support the selection of an independent chairman next year.

Ulber has been Panalpina chairman since 2016 after a three-year spell as chief executive.

Panalpina defended its board following Cevian’s criticism, saying the Swiss company had a “robust strategy” and would participate in consolidation of the fragmented sector.

Panalpina’s shares fell 2.6 percent on Monday, before the announcement from the company. The shares are now down about 20 percent on the year, up slightly after hitting a two-and-a-half year low in late October. (Reporting by John Miller and Oliver Hirt. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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