DUESSELDORF/FRANKFURT: Leading shareholders of German retail group Metro are in talks on a joint proposal for a future chairman in a sign that they are working to put a long-lasting spat behind them, three people close to the matter said.
Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky secured more than 40per cent of Metro's voting rights after an unsolicited voluntary offer of his vehicle EPGC expired last week. He has been at loggerheads with the Beisheim and Meridian foundations, which own a joint 23per cent.
Kretinsky failed in several attempts to buy the stakes of the foundations, which said his offer price was two low. Metro's management has also opposed Kretinsky's offers.
Beisheim and Meridian in September pooled their voting rights in 2019 and have said they could increase their stakes to bolster their blocking minority.
Kretinsky and the foundations have begun talks on a joint strategy for Metro, joint candidates for a total of three supervisory board members including the chairman role, which comes up for replacement at the next shareholder meeting, as well as on a new Chief Executive.
Current CEO Olaf Koch is stepping down at the end of the year with CFO Christian Baier and COO Rafael Gasset to run the company as co-CEOs on an interim basis as of January 2021.
Metro has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as restaurants and hotels are a major customer group. Its shareholders are pressing for a new strategy, including a new digital strategy and a focus on certain customer groups.
Metro has been selling off assets in recent years to focus on its European cash-and-carry business supplying hotels, restaurants and independent traders, but it is battling sluggish growth in its home market Germany and a decline in Russia.
Kretinsky and the foundations declined to comment.
(Reporting by Arno Schuetze and Matthias Inverardi; editing by Thomas Seythal and Barbara Lewis)