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Veolia CFO Riolacci to Leave at Year-End Amid Turnaround Plan

Veolia Environnement SA Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Francois Riolacci will leave at the end of the year as Europe’s biggest water company pledges to push ahead with a turnaround plan. The shares dropped.

“The recruitment of his successor is ongoing and will be announced in coming weeks,” the Paris-based utility said in a statement. Veolia “will carry on its transformation strategy.”

Veolia shares declined 2.6 percent, the most in a month, to close at 12.055 euros in Paris. RTL earlier reported Riolacci is leaving to join Air France-KLM. Cedric Leurquin, a spokesman for the airline, declined to comment.

Veolia Chief Executive Officer Antoine Frerot is more than 18 months into a plan to lower debt and boost profitability through the sale of assets, a shrunken geographic footprint and more industrial water and waste contracts. First-half profit was almost wiped out by impairments on waste services in Germany, the company said last month.

Riolacci “has chosen to take a new path in his career,” Veolia said in today’s statement.

Riolacci became CFO at Veolia in 2010 when Thomas Piquemal left to become finance head at Electricite de France SA, following former CEO Henri Proglio, who took the helm at the state-controlled nuclear operator.

Veolia has a goal to sell 6 billion euros ($7.9 billion) of assets in 2012 and 2013, and intends to lower costs by 170 million euros this year as part of a plan to save 750 million euros by 2015. Frerot last year shook up management and nominated new directors in a bid to bolster his position.

The effects of the “transformation strategy” are “fully on the charted path to recovery and profitable growth,” the CEO said in today’s statement.

Frerot is seeking to increase Veolia’s reliance on industrial contracts and focusing on “high-growth” economies such as China to counter weakening demand in Europe.

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