PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG) has narrowed the search for a new supervisory board chairman to ex-Airbus Group NV Chief Executive Officer Louis Gallois and former Nexans SA (NEX) CEO Gerard Hauser, a person familiar with the matter said.
The board’s nomination committee today discussed their qualifications for the post, currently held by Thierry Peugeot, before the full board meets March 18 to make a final decision, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
Gallois, who already sits on the Peugeot board as the government’s representative and is supported by President Francois Hollande, is seen as the leading candidate, the person said. Jean-Baptiste Thomas, a Peugeot spokesman, declined to comment on the nomination process.
The chairman’s position is going for the first time since its creation in 1972 to someone outside the founding family as part of a broader governance reorganization that will result in the family’s board seats being reduced to two from four. The French state and Dongfeng Motor Corp. (489), which have agreed to buy 14 percent stakes apiece in Europe’s second-largest automaker, will also each have two seats.
“It’s a step in the right direction because it shows the family is losing its grip on the business gradually,” said Erich Hauser, a London-based analyst at International Strategy & Investment Group who recommends buying the shares. “It was too involved in the management.”
The family has decided that its two main holding companies -- EPF and FFP (FFP) -- will represent it on the board, the person said. FFP is currently run by Robert Peugeot, while EPF is headed by Jean-Philippe Peugeot. A decision on whether the two cousins, who already sit on the board, will continue their mandates has yet to be reached, the person said.
Peugeot gained as much as 39 cents, or 3 percent, to 13.25 euros and was up 0.1 percent as of 4:52 p.m. in Paris trading. The stock has climbed 36 percent this year, valuing the manufacturer at 4.57 billion euros ($6.37 billion).
Gallois and Hauser have both already traveled to China to meet with Dongfeng, Peugeot’s joint venture partner in the country, the person said.
Gallois, 70, ran Airbus, formerly called European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., for almost six years until May 2012, starting as co-chief executive officer and then holding the post alone following a reorganization in August 2007. Gallois published a report in 2012 on France’s business competitiveness that was commissioned by Hollande.
Hauser, 72, ran French cable manufacturer Nexans from its creation in 2000 to 2009. He started his career in 1965 at the French unit of Royal Philips NV (PHIA) as head of market research, and then worked for more than 20 years at Pechiney in its aluminum division. He was a board member at Faurecia SA, which is controlled by Peugeot, from 2003 to 2009, and currently sits on the Technip SA (TEC), Alstom SA and Ipsen SA (IPN) boards.
Peugeot announced on Feb. 19 that it had reached an agreement with France and Dongfeng under which they would each contribute about half the money for a planned 3 billion-euro capital increase in exchange for their stakes. The founding family’s ownership in the carmaker will drop to 14 percent from the current 25.5 percent.
The French manufacturer has had a two-tier management structure since 1972 comprising the managing board, responsible for strategic and operational decisions, and a supervisory board, charged with oversight and control. The chairman leads supervisory-board discussions and keeps in close contact with the top management.
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