26 May 2016 – Expansión
Oceanwood Capital, the fund that owns a 10% stake in the NH Hotel Group, has submitted a letter to the hotel company requesting that it adds some new items to the agenda for the General Shareholders’ Meeting, to be held on 21 June. It is requesting the removal of the four directors appointed by HNA, the Chinese company that owns a 29.5% stake in NH, i.e. the group’s majority shareholder.
Oceanwood believes that there is a clear conflict of interest that prevents those directors from defending the rights of all of the shareholders, rather than just those of the investment group that they represent. At the same time, Oceanwood has proposed the appointment of four external directors, because they cannot be classified as independent given that they have not been proposed by the appointments committee.
The document, which was submitted by due legal process yesterday, the last day on which it was legally admissible, requests the removal from the Board of the current Co-Chairman of the company, Charles Mobus, as well as of Ling Zhang, Xianyi Mu and Haibo Bai. The justification for these removals lies in the conflict of interst that now exists due to the structural and permanent competition between NH and its shareholder HNA, after the latter reached an agreement with Carlson Rezidor, a hotel group that competes directly with NH in Germany, the Netherlands and Benelux – particularly in Berlin, Brussels and Amsterdam – . Oceanwood asks not only that the General Shareholders’ Meeting removes these directors, but also that HNA is prevented from exercising its right to proportional representation as a result of its shareholding, until the aforementioned conflict of interest is eliminated.
In its request for the removal of the directors, Oceanwood emphasises, amongst other things, that the Chairman advised HNA on its purchase of Carlson Rezidor and that during that process, the possibility was proposed of the Chinese group submitting a takeover bid for 100% of NH. Moreover, it indicates that the three Chinese directors rarely attend board meetings in person, and instead choose to channel their votes through Mobus.
In parallel to these removals, the fund, which hopes to have the support of other institutional investors to reach the 40% threshold, proposes the appointment of four new directors: Paul Johnson, Fernando Lacadena, María Grecna and José María Cantero de Montes-Jovellar. All are reputable professionals in their respective areas of activity. Johnson has worked in the hotel sector for 30 years, where he has created a chain, Kew Green Hotels, which has more than 5,000 beds and was recently sold to HK CTS for GBP 400 million.
Lacadena currently serves as the CEO of Testa – which has now been integrated into the Socimi Merlin – and, for several years before that, was the Finance Director at Sacyr. Meanwhile, Grecna has been the CEO of Värde Partners Europe and, between 2011 and 2013, was the CEO of the company in Iberia, headquartered in Madrid.
Finally, Cantero is a marketing specialist, who used to work at Amena (Orange) and who has worked for Mutua Madrileña for the last eight years, where he has served as the Deputy CEO. Oceanwood currently has one director on NH’s Board, Alfredo Fernandez Agras, and it asks that the General Shareholders’ Meeting ratifies his appointment. It says that there is no need to re-elect him, as it wants to prevent HNA from requesting the revocation of his appointment on the day of the General Shareholders’ Meeting.
Original story: Expansión (by S. Arancibia)
Translation: Carmel Drake