Veolia Environnement SA, the world’s biggest water utility, fell the most in a month as newspaper Les Echos said Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot’s predecessor, Henri Proglio, is seeking to oust him.
Veolia declined as much as 4.8 percent in Paris trading, the biggest drop since Jan. 18, and declined 3.8 percent to 9.23 euros as of 11:04 a.m.
Proglio, a member of Veolia’s board and CEO of Electricite de France SA, will try to oust Frerot at a board meeting Feb. 29, the newspaper said, without citing anyone. Former Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo, former Societe Generale SA CEO Daniel Bouton, Impala SA CEO Jacques Veyrat, and Caisse des Depots et Consignations CEO Augustin de Romanet are among people who may replace Frerot, according to Les Echos.
Frerot said in December that Veolia will sell 5 billion euros ($6.6 billion) of assets and trim the dividend to cut debt as it exits the mass-transit business to focus on water, waste and energy services. The restructuring marked the end of the global expansion started by Proglio, who became chairman and CEO of EDF in 2009 while remaining chairman of Veolia until December 2010.
Veolia spokeswoman Marie-Claire Camus didn’t immediately respond to messages left on her mobile phone and at her office.
Proglio spent about 4 billion euros on acquisitions in 2007 and 2008, pushing the utility’s operations into 77 countries from Argentina to South Korea.
Veolia will shrink its “geographic footprint” to about 40 countries in a bid to lower debt to less than 12 billion euros by the end of 2013, Frerot said in December. Net financial debt was 15 billion euros at the end of September.