Toscafund targets Speedy Hire

Toscafund has ramped up its criticism of Speedy Hire ahead of a general meeting requisitioned by the hedge fund to take place on Friday.

Toscafund is the largest Speedy Hire shareholder on a register which includes some of the weightiest names of UK fund management, such as Fidelity’s Citywire A-rated Alex Wright and Artemis’ Derek Stuart.

The hedge fund accused company chair Jan Astrand of “egregious corporate governance failings” and “poor leadership [which] have significantly weakened the board.”

Shares in the Liverpool-based tool and machinery rental business are down almost 50% since June 2015 following a series of profit warnings an the departure of the former chief executive.

Astrand has also taken flak by taking an executive role and by appointing two associates as non-executive directors.

Toscafund, which hold almost 20% of Speedy Hire equity, has agitated to replace Astrand with turnaround veteran David Shearer, who has a background in financial restructures at businesses such as housebuilder Crest Nicholson and broadcaster STV.

In response Speedy Hire has said that Astrand had stabilized the business, cut costs and restores revenue growth. He has also pledged to step down from his executive role this month.

Toscafund said that the recent difficulties demonstrated the need for beefed up board oversight, however, citing the support of three proxy advisers without naming them.
“Speedy Hire and its shareholders have suffered for it. Approaching David Shearer to the board can only strengthen it at a critical time for the company.”

It cited a statement from corporate governance specialists ISS: “David Shearer has a successful track record as advisor first and then as chairman/non-executive director in turnaround processes. David Shearer’s appointment would reinforce the board at a very challenging time for the company.”