Nov 19 (Reuters) - Hedge fund Livermore Partners is pushing for change at U.S. staffing services provider Volt Information Sciences Inc , setting the stage for a potential proxy battle if the company does not act on its demands.
The fund called on Wednesday for Volt to overhaul its board by adding independent directors. It also wants it to sell non-core assets and buy back stock, said David Neuhauser, Livermore’s managing director.
“It is imperative that both management and the board fully grasp the need to directly attack the current issues that are impairing shareholder equity,” he said in a letter addressed to Volt Chief Executive Ronald Kochman and seen by Reuters.
“The opportunity to talk through our issues is now at an inflection point.”
Volt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Volt’s share price has underperformed rivals such as ManpowerGroup Inc and Robert Half over the last five years. It also has a bigger debt-to-equity ratio than some peers. These characteristics often attract activists.
Volt shares were up 0.7 percent at $9.02 on Wednesday.
“There’s tremendous opportunity here, and we’re going to press on that very hard,” Neuhauser told Reuters. “It is a very lucrative business that can have substantial upside, but it’s not going to do so with the current board in place.”
He said he wants substantial change on the board before year-end.
The seats of four of eight Volt directors are up for renewal at the next annual meeting in April, according to a regulatory filing. Livermore has until Dec. 18 to file an alternative slate of directors.
Neuhauser said the call for change comes after several attempts to engage Volt did not yield the results he was looking for. The hedge fund has been involved in activist campaigns against other companies, including Occidental Petroleum Corp .
Neuhauser wants Volt to sell its computer systems division and some real estate in California, using the proceeds to retire debt and buy back stock.
Founded in 1950, Volt has a market capitalization of about $187 million. It had revenue of $2.1 billion for the 2013 fiscal year. The company, whose website says that half of the Fortune 500 companies are its clients, has reported losses in four of the past five years. (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Peter Galloway)
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