Belfast Telegraph

Mears to call investor meeting after move to oust chairman

Frankfurt-based Shareholder Value Management wants to replace chairman Bob Holt with former Staffline boss Andy Hogarth.

Social housing and support services provider Mears Group is calling a meeting with investors after facing demands from an activist shareholder to oust its chairman.

The group confirmed it had received a request on Wednesday from Frankfurt-based Shareholder Value Management, which owns an 8.9% stake in Mears, to remove chairman Bob Holt amid concerns over share price under-performance.

It said it would call a meeting with shareholders within 21 days following the request and hold the meeting within 28 days.

But it advised shareholders to “take no action at this time”.

It has become clear that the current chairman lacks the will to enact much needed change that only a new independent chairman can bring. SVM spokesman

SVM wants to replace Mr Holt at the helm with former Staffline chief executive Andy Hogarth.

SVM has raised concerns that it believes Mr Holt is “unable to devote sufficient time” to Mears, given that he holds 10 board seats and six chairmanships.

It also argues that, as he has been at the firm for 21 years, his lack of independence has “led to sub-optimal decision-making at the board level” and is behind the share price under-performance.

A spokesman for SVM said: “We believe that the chairman of the board of Mears Group has continually failed to challenge the status quo and to remedy the situation – despite deteriorating results, a stagnant share price and faded shareholder value.

“In our conversations with the company, it has become clear that the current chairman lacks the will to enact much needed change that only a new independent chairman can bring.”

He added that the appointment of Mr Hogarth as a replacement would “offer vital support to Mears’s very effective chief executive and executive management in improving returns to shareholders”.

It has also raised broader worries over what it claims is a lack of shareholder engagement and board dynamics at Mears.

Mears has seen its shares slump 25% in the past year after it warned last August that the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London would lead to a profits hit in 2016-17 as housing clients delayed new projects while reviewing the commissioning and safety practices at their properties.

But it said last month that sales in its housing division have stabilised as clients restart projects in the wake of the Grenfell fire.

In the June update, it cheered contract wins worth around £70 million and said its pipeline of new housing work bids was “considerable”, including two “very
significant” opportunities.

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