ACS wants to double board seats in Hochtief

The Spanish firm wants four of its representatives to sit on Hochtief’s board of directors as its shareholding in the German company surpasses 43%. Hochtief had proposed earlier that ACS continue to hold just two seats on its supervisory board.

German infrastructure group Hochtief is set for a showdown with majority shareholder ACS following the Spanish firm’s announcement on Sunday that it plans to double the number of its representatives on Hochtief’s board of directors.

“With four representatives from ACS, one from Qatar and three independent candidates, we have made a well-balanced proposal. We are confident that the shareholders will support this,” an ACS spokesperson said in a statement. Hochtief shareholders are due to choose the firm’s eight-man board of directors for the next five years on Thursday, at Hochtief’s annual shareholders meeting. 

The Spanish firm’s list includes Manfred Wennemer, former chairman of the board at Continental; Abdulla Abdulaziz Turki Al-Subaie, managing director of Qatar Holding; Eggert Voscherau, chairman of the supervisory board of BASF; Thomas Eichelmann, chief executive of ATON; and ACS executives Marcelino Fernandez Verdes, Angel Garcia Altozano, Pedro Lopez Jimenez and Jose Luis del Valle Perez (the first two already represented on Hochtief’s board).

ACS’ list of candidates comes in response to an earlier list proposed by Hochtief, which limited ACS’ representation on its board of directors to the two board seats it already holds. ACS, which currently holds more than 43 percent of Hochtief and is on track to acquire majority control of the company, said at the time that Hochtief’s list was “disappointing” and did not respect “market-usual rights”.

The spat is not surprising, given that Hochtief’s management has been opposing ACS’ ongoing takeover of the German company ever since it was announced last September. However, given ACS’ shareholding in Hochtief, it is unlikely to have any problems pushing through its list of candidates on Thursday.

Hochtief has seen an exodus of senior executives in the first quarter of the year as ACS consolidates its grip on the company. The latest to resign was chief financial officer Burkhard Lohr, effective from October 18, who had been with Hochtief for nearly 20 years. 

Lohr’s resignation follows the departure of chief executive Herbert Lütkestratkötter, announced last Monday, who will be retiring as from the end of Hochtief’s general shareholders meeting. Lütkestratkötter will be replaced by Frank Stieler, the current head of Hochtief Europe, in an appointment backed by ACS. 

Earlier in March, Peter Noé, also a member of Hochtief’s executive board and head of its concessions and Asia units, resigned from the firm, with effect from September 10.