A Speedy war of words
By Helen Wright17 August 2016
UK rental company Speedy Hire and major shareholder Toscafund Asset Management have locked horns over an abandoned merger plan with HSS hire, and Speedy’s wider strategy.
The companies have exchanged barbed statements over the last week; with Toscafund calling for the removal of Speedy chairman Jan Åstrand, and Speedy standing by its strategy and its management team.
The latest Toscafund note claimed that Speedy Hire could deliver around £20 million (€23.1 million) in annual savings in the event of a merger. A previous open letter to Speedy Hire revealed that it had been a strong proponent of a business combination between Speedy Hire and HSS Hire.
The note from Toscafund, issued on 15 August, also attacked Mr Åstrand’s appointment of Robert Contreras as a non-executive director, claiming Mr Åstrand had a previous longstanding association with Mr Contreras in his career prior to joining Speedy, rendering the appointment not truly independent.
Other accusations from Toscafund include its claim that Mr Åstrand privately undermined Russell Down, the current CEO of Speedy Hire. Toscafund also reiterated its call for David Shearer to be appointed as independent non-executive director.
Speedy Hire has rejected Toscafund’s calls for Mr Åstrand to stand down, and recommended its other shareholders voted against this proposal at a meeting in September.
Speedy Hire also said it would not have been in the best interests of all Speedy’s shareholders to merge with HSS Hire. It said Toscafund had asked Speedy to consider a combination with HSS back in January 2015, just prior to HSS’s initial public offering.
Speedy claims that Toscafund continued to push for a merger into 2016, and began agitating for the removal of Mr Åstrand when Speedy repeated its opposition.
Speedy Hire also highlighted Toscafund's shareholding in HSS Hire.
“During the period between January 2016 and June 2016, funds managed by Toscafund had further increased their shareholdings in HSS and Speedy from approximately 5.4% and 18.1% to approximately 18.1% and 19.4% respectively,” Speedy said.
It also said the company’s recovery plan had stabilised the business, with lower costs revenues growing ahead of the previous year.
“As always intended, following the stabilisation of the business and strengthening of the board, Jan Åstrand will revert to the role of non-executive chairman. This he will do on 30 September, 2016, being Speedy's financial half year end,” the company said.
Speedy Hire also dismissed Tosca fund’s calls for David Shearer to replace Mr Åstrand. Mr Shearer is currently chairman of Liberty Living Group, chairman of Aberdeen New Dawn Investment Trust, and senior independent director at STV Group.
Speedy said its independent board of directors was supportive of Jan Åstrand remaining as chairman, and as such there was no basis for any further discussions regarding David Shearer as a potential non-executive director.