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Chairman Proglio Steps Down to Focus on Running EDF

Henri Proglio, the top executive at France’s biggest water and nuclear power companies, stepped down as chairman of Veolia Environnement SA, bowing to pressure to relinquish one of his two jobs.

Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot will become chairman, Veolia said in an e-mailed statement today.

Proglio, 61, was criticized by French politicians and corporate governance experts such as Daniel Lebegue, who heads the French Institute of Directors, for the conflicts of interest that might arise from his dual role as chief executive of state-controlled Electricite de France SA and chairman of Veolia. The water utility, where Proglio spent most of his career, said in March he would step down from the chairmanship before the end of the year. He will remain a director.

Proglio said in January he would renounce a salary of 450,000 euros as chairman of Veolia, which would have come on top of his pay at EDF. He took the top post at the state-controlled power producer in November 2009. Until moving to EDF, Proglio was chairman and chief executive of Veolia.

He ran Veolia with “determination, energy and passion,” the Paris-based company said in the statement.

EDF and Veolia, both included in France’s benchmark CAC40 stock index, have embarked on asset-disposal programs since expansion drove up debt. EDF has a market capitalization of 59.1 billion euros, while Veolia is valued at 10.7 billion euros.

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