French reinsurer SCOR’s Chief Executive Denis Kessler promised on Tuesday to release a strategic plan that would set new targets for the company, in a move to assuage an activist fund that questioned his role in a failed takeover process.
Kessler was responding a day after activist fund CIAM, which holds 0.9 percent of SCOR’s capital, published a letter in which CIAM’s president Catherine Berjal criticized Kessler over spurning a proposed merger from French insurer Covea.
In that letter, Berjal said the blunt rejection by Kessler of Covea’s proposal, and a subsequent lawsuit lodged by SCOR against Covea and Covea’s CEO Thierry Derez, had led to a loss of over 900 million euros ($1 billion) in SCOR’s market value.
Berjal’s letter asked whether Kessler had made the move to protect his job and “his personal interests to the detriment of the company’s shareholders.”
In a letter published on Tuesday, Kessler in turn threatened Berjal, saying that her comments could “constitute slander.”
Covea, SCOR’s largest shareholder with an 8 percent stake, offered in September to pay 43 euros per SCOR share, a 21 percent premium over the market price at the time.
The potential deal was viewed positively by investors, with the insurance industry undergoing a wave of consolidation as major players grapple with technology changes and the rise of new rivals from Asia.
Kessler also asked Berjal to disclose whether her fund handled money from Covea and whether she had contacts with the company or Derez.
Berjal said she did not know Covea nor its management. “We are just big shareholders like any other and we are unhappy with what is going on and Mr. Kessler’s attitude,” she told Reuters.
Following Covea’s first move in September, SCOR shares rose by more than 20 percent in the first two months before erasing almost all those gains when Covea dropped the merger plan last week.
SCOR shares, which hit a peak of 43.59 euros in early November, closed up 0.45 percent at 38.12 euros on Tuesday.
Kessler had rejected Covea’s bid, saying the price was too low. SCOR’s board of directors also rejected the offer and eventually sued Covea and Derez, who also held a boardroom seat at SCOR.
SCOR alleged Derez breached his legal and fiduciary duties as a company director, disclosed company secrets and used and disclosed confidential documents. Covea deny any wrongdoing.
After fending off the takeover bid and the dismal share performance, Kessler is now struggling to convince investors that he can oversee a rise in the value of SCOR, which holds its annual shareholders meeting in April.
($1 = 0.8757 euros) (Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Kirsten Donovan and David Evans)
- French Insurer Covea Abandons Hostile Takeover of SCOR
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- French Reinsurer SCOR Spurns $9.6B Acquisition Offer from Insurer Covea
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