Premier Foods investor calls for immediate removal of CEO

(Reuters) - Shareholder Oasis Management has called for the immediate removal of Premier Foods PFD.L Chief Executive Gavin Darby, raising the pressure on the company ahead of its annual meeting next month.

Oasis, which said it has a 9.3 percent stake in Premier, said current CFO Alastair Murray should take interim charge, supported by the company’s UK Managing Director Alex Whitehouse. It urged the company to seek a new permanent chief executive from outside the company.

In a statement, Oasis accused Darby of having no credible strategy, adding: “we have completely lost faith in him.”

Oasis also confirmed its intention to vote against Darby’s re-election at the annual meeting scheduled for July 18 while urging other shareholders to do the same.

Darby has been in charge of the Oxo stock cube-maker for more than five years.

Last week, Premier Foods acknowledged that Oasis intended to oppose the re-election of Darby but asked other shareholders to support him, saying that he was “the best person to lead the company and to execute the board’s strategy”.

Premier Foods has been under shareholder pressure since it rejected a twice-improved 65 pence per share takeover bid from U.S. food-maker McCormick in 2016. Its shares closed at 37.15 pence on Friday.

Under Darby’s leadership, the company has been trying to reduce its debt and boost sales internationally, as its UK growth slows. Its net debt currently stands at 496.4 million pounds.

The company in May said that although it faced a tough retail environment, full-year sales grew 3.6 percent mainly due to overseas partnerships.

Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Keith Weir