The battle for control of Speedy Hire shows no signs of letting up, after major shareholder Toscafund failed to oust the current chairman but succeeded in getting its nominee placed on the too hire company’s board.
The equipment rental firm has been facing uncertainty for several months, as the activist investor has battled to have David Shearer made a director and remove executive chairman Jan Astrand.
At a general meeting on Friday, only 37pc of investors who voted supported Toscafund’s call to remove Mr Astrand, meaning he will stay in place.
The activist investor holds almost 20pc of Speedy’s shares and is also understood to have gained support from Schroders, another major investor with a 10pc stake.
However, it was successful in its call to get former Mouchel chairman Mr Shearer into the boardroom, with 53pc backing for he notion.
Speedy Hire has been engaged in a public war of words with Toscafund, which has questioned the independence and experience of some Speedy Hire directors/ Toscafund also criticised Mr Astrand for taking on the role of executive chairman, going against corporate governance rules.
However, Speedy Hire’s executives have hit back, saying they are delivering a turnaround of the business after a string of profit warnings and that the activist investor’s campaign is an “unnecessary distraction”.
They have also questioned Toscafund’s motives for calling on Speedy Hire to restart failed talks about a merger with peer HSS, in which the activist in a major investor.
Investors’ decision to appoint Mr Shearer to the board – a move backed by major shareholder advisers ISS, PIRC and Glass Lewis – will only likely cause further ructions at the company.
Speaking ahead of the vote, a source close to Toscafund said: “If investors vote Mr Shearer on as a director, we see it as a vote of no confidence in the board as they have all said they support him.”
In a statement, Toscafund added: “Shareholders have sent a clear message that they require an improvement in Speedy Hire’s corporate governance. David Shearer will provide Speedy Hire with the necessary independent non-executive experience to help guide the Company’s turnaround and rebuild shareholder value.”
Speedy Hire said: “The board is pleased that shareholders strongly support Jan Astrand’s position as chairman and welcome David Shearer as a director.”