June 25, 2019 / 5:32 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-FirstGroup chair to leave after shareholders reject coup attempt

(Adds chairman resignation, context on Coast proposals)

June 25 (Reuters) - Britain’s FirstGroup plc said on Tuesday its chairman would not stand for re-election, after shareholders rejected top investor Coast Capital’s proposals to overhaul its board.

Coast Capital, which holds a 10% stake in FirstGroup, had been pushing the FTSE-250 transport group to oust half of the company’s board and exit its loss-making UK rail operations “in full”, as well as cutting its pension obligations.

FirstGroup said non-executive chairman Wolfhart Hauser had told the board to start planning for his succession, as he would not be standing for re-election at an annual general meeting on July 25.

Hauser, formerly the chief executive of Intertek plc , was appointed to the role in 2015.

Senior independent director David Robbie will take on the role of chairman on an interim basis with effect from July 25, overseeing the search for a new chair, FirstGroup said.

The resignation comes after FirstGroup said its shareholders had voted decisively against Coast Capital’s “attempt to take control of the company”.

Coast Capital did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Management stood its ground against a raft of changes proposed by its biggest shareholder earlier this month, saying it had engaged with the group for over a year.

FirstGroup, which replaced its chief executive last year and has not paid a dividend since 2013, has rejected two approaches from private equity firms and is also a target of Canadian activist investor West Face Capital.

Bowing to investor pressure, the company last month put its iconic North American bus line Greyhound up for sale and said it would spin off its UK First Bus business.

The company, which last month flagged “reduced expectations” for its two most recently awarded rail franchises, has also reiterated that it will operate its rail franchises under their existing terms. (Reporting by Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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