January 16, 2018 / 3:35 PM / a year ago

Dutch energy firm Eneco's shareholders call for mediation with board on sale

AMSTERDAM, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A commission representing Eneco shareholders called on Tuesday for the urgent appointment of a third-party mediator to try to repair ties between the Dutch energy company’s supervisory board and its investors.

Eneco’s shareholders — municipal governments — voted in October to privatise the company, which is estimated to be worth around 4 billion euros ($4.9 billion).

The company’s management has called for the company to seek a partial sale or Initial Public Offering, which would ensure it remains under Dutch control.

Shareholders would prefer to keep all options open, including an outright sale, which would likely result in a bigger return. Sources close to the matter have said Shell, which has appointed Morgan Stanley to advise it on a possible bid, could be interested. Shell has declined to comment.

In an open letter, Adriaan Visser, the alderman for Rotterdam alderman who chairs the shareholders committee, said shareholders had lost confidence in Eneco’s supervisory board.

He said that remarks made by members of the board at an extraordinary meeting on Jan. 12 showed the board understood its responsibility as “overseeing the board of management and not interacting with shareholders”.

“It seems the board of managers don’t take into account that Eneco has no other shareholders than public ones.”

Rotterdam is the company’s largest shareholder with a 37 percent stake. Visser said the board is meant to represent shareholders’ interests, as well as those of the company’s managers and employees.

The letter, dated 15 Jan. and published on Tuesday, called for a mediator to bring together representatives of the board and shareholders this weekend, before shareholders begin taking legal steps to have the board removed.

An Eneco spokesman said he could not immediately comment. ($1 = 0.8184 euros) (Reporting by Toby Sterling; editing by Alexander Smith)

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