Altran Shareholders Set Stage for CEO Ouster

Shareholders of the French technology consultancy Altran voted in two new board nominees—Philippe Salle and Monique Cohen—setting the stage for the ouster of Chief Executive Yves de Chaisemartin, Reuters reported. Top shareholder Altrafin Participations, which is controlled by private equity firm Apax Partners, wants to replace Chaisemartin with Salle. The new board appointments gives Apax six out of ten seats on the company’s board, enough to force a vote to replace Chaisemartin, Reuters wrote.

(Reuters) – French technology consultancy Altran’s (ALTT.PA) shareholders on Friday set the stage for the ouster of Chief Executive Yves de Chaisemartin, voting in two new board nominees favored by the company’s top shareholder.

Altrafin Participations, controlled by private equity firm Apax Partners [APAX.UL], wants to replace Chaisemartin with Philippe Salle, a former Accenture and McKinsey consultant who also worked as CEO of Dutch staffing services provider Vedior and oil services company Geoservices, which was acquired by Schlumberger (SLB.N) in March 2010.

The appointment to the board of Salle and the other Altrafin nominee, Monique Cohen, gives Apax six out of ten seats on the company’s board, enough to force a vote to replace Chaisemartin.

Altrafin argues that a new CEO is needed to pursue a strategy of boosting profitability and expanding more rapidly internationally.

Chaisemartin’s effective firing is a rare victory for bare-fisted shareholder activism in corporate France, where consensus and gradualism are typically the order of the day.

“It’s over,” Chaisemartin said after the vote. “The die is cast.”

Earlier, Chaisemartin had defended his performance, insisting that the company’s strategy had worked and saying that second quarter results would match or exceed double-digit first-quarter sales growth.

Shareholders also voted down a counterproposal by Chaisemartin to name three independent independent directors.

In a sign of the high stakes in play, there were numerous security guards present at the neoclassical building that historically housed the Paris stock exchange, where the meeting took place.

Altran shares — which have surged 63 percent this year — were little changed, down 0.2 percent at 5.29 euros by 1145 GMT.

(Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; editing by David Hulmes and Sophie Walker)