September 26, 2017 / 10:27 PM / 5 months ago

Eneco shareholder group criticizes management

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A commission representing shareholders in Dutch energy company Eneco NV on Tuesday criticized the company’s management for trying to influence its sale process.

Eneco, known for its wind turbine farms and valued at around 3 billion euros (2.60 billion pounds), is owned by 53 municipalities in the Netherlands which are due to decide by Oct. 31 whether to dispose of their stakes.

If Eneco is sold as the other major Dutch generation companies have been, the auction is expected to attract interest from strategic buyers eager to expand their renewables portfolio. Potential bidders include Shell and Fortum , among others.

The company’s management and works council have lobbied against a sale, arguing the company is the Netherlands’ champion of green energy and should be kept under Dutch control.

But as more and more municipalities have decided to sell their stakes, CEO Jeroen de Haas last week sent a letter to shareholding city councils, detailing the advantages of seeking a stock market listing (IPO) rather than a sale.

The shareholders’ commission said that De Haas’s letter was out of place, and it intended to take the matter up with the company’s supervisory board immediately.

Power-generating windmill turbines are seen at the Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm near Amsterdam, Netherlands September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

“It is improper that the board of managers of Eneco is meddling in this way in the political decision-making of the city councils,” the group of shareholders said in a letter, seen by Reuters.

An Eneco spokesman said the company is studying the shareholders’ letter and had no further comment.

Slideshow (3 Images)

De Haas’s letter dated Sept. 22 said that if Eneco were to be sold to an investor it would have to be sold at a market price under European rules.

“Given the importance of Eneco’s new owners endorsing the continuation of its sustainable strategy ... we have been calling to impose conditions (on a buyer) in case you choose to sell,” he wrote.

“In case of an IPO, this discussion is irrelevant: an IPO is always at a market price and what’s more our sustainable strategy can be continued without hindrance.”

As of Tuesday, cities representing 77 percent of the company’s shares have elected to sell their stakes in Eneco, with around 3 percent either opposing a sale or not taking a position.

Under Eneco’s charter, shareholders representing a 75 percent majority at a meeting of shareholders are required to approve a change in its articles of association or a merger of the company.

Reporting by Toby Sterling. Editing by Jane Merriman

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